“Black Friday” is becoming obsolete.
Since America became Shopping Nation, the day after Thanksgiving has been considered the most important day of the year for retailers because it indicates whether they’ll end the year handsomely profitable (“in the black”) or desperate for customers. Retailers log a disproportionate portion of annual sales in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which has created an arms race of gimmicks meant to persuade shoppers to spend as much money as possible starting the moment they’ve slept off their turkey dinner.
The Black Friday surge at the mall spawned “Small Business Saturday,” when shoppers are supposed to share the spend with Main Street merchants, and then of course “Cyber Monday,” when everybody gets sick of jam-packed stores and goes online to order whatever they failed to pick up on the retail circuit the prior weekend.
These designations are all artificial constructs meant to describe what retail executives hope we’ll do, yet American shoppers have been surprisingly compliant, rushing to the Black Friday doorbuster specials like drooling dogs responding to Pavlov’s bell. Still, our shopping habits continue to evolve, with the latest addition to the calendar being Stealthy Thursday, which could end up displacing Black Friday as the most-watched shopping day of the year.
That’s right. Thanksgiving Day. Last year, Americans spent about $600 million online on Thanksgiving Day, since most stores weren’t open. No retailer can ever cede a dollar of sales to a competitor, so this year, Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and many other stores will open on Thanksgiving night around 8 pm to try to corral their share of the Thanksgiving Day shopping budget. Struggling Kmart, desperate for any edge, will open at 6 am on Thanksgiving Day and remain open through Black Friday at 11 pm, sort of a test of how eager people really are to ditch their families on a holiday and find anything else to do. Anything.
We all know where this is headed, as I explain in the video above. Thanksgiving Day openings will get earlier and earlier until it’s just another shopping day. Doorbuster sales will migrate to Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. It’s already starting to happen. J.C. Penney ran its first Christmas commercial this year in August, when holiday shoppers were still at the beach. Wal-Mart is already offering “early bird” Christmas specials on its Web site, hoping to counter the “daily deals” Amazon is offering in its “countdown to Black Friday” promotion. Amazon, by the way, doesn’t even consider Black Friday a single day any more; it’s just the anchor day for “deals week.”
You’re outraged? Sorry, but shopping comes first in America. Anybody who wants to preserve the sanctity of the holidays is free to stay at home, huddle with family or even step off the grid. You could start, if you desire, by clicking out of this article. The rest of us want to shop. We’ve sent that message to Big Retail year after year, and they’ve responded by offering us the incredible low prices we want, exactly when we want them: always. The turkey and mashed potatoes can wait.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.