Bargain hunters exult as Black Friday ritual arrives
Reposted from Virginian-Pilot | by Carolyn Shapiro
For 16 years, Necole Hodges-Bland’s extended family has practiced the same Thanksgiving ritual:
More than 20 of them gather at one house after a big meal of turkey and ham, play cards for a while, then open up the advertising circulars to devise their Black Friday shopping strategy.
“We stay together the entire night,” said Hodges-Bland, a 37-year-old Portsmouth resident. “We usually leave around 12:30, 1 o’clock.”
For many families, Thanksgiving traditions go beyond sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and spill into store check-out lines. Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, has become as much a part of the holiday as eating.
“It’s a consumption festival,” said L.J. Shrum, a marketing professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Business and president of the Society for Consumer Psychology.
“People plan on it. Stores know that people are planning on it, so they try to compete with all the other stores.”
This year, Hodges-Bland and about a dozen of her relatives will fan out to different Walmart locations, as well as Toys R Us and Home Depot. Hodges-Bland hopes to score deals on a couple of LCD television sets, video games and other gifts for the kids
“We’re supposed to be going to JCPenney, too, for clothes,” she said.
Black Friday shoppers generally divided among two types, experts said. There’s the tactician, who puts together a list, scours the circulars and comes up with a plan for when to find what deals at which stores.
“They’re the ones who are in it for the hunt,” said Richard Seesel, principal of Retailing In Focus, a retail consulting firm. “They’re on a mission. They’re not there to browse. They’re there to buy a specific HDTV or whatever.”
Others wander. “I call them opportunistic shoppers,” said Derrick S. Boone Sr., a marketing professor for the Wake Forest University Schools of Business. They buy something at an attractive discount whether they need it or want it, he said. “It was just too good to pass up.”
Consumer surveys have split on whether stores will see more or less traffic on Black Friday this year.
A national poll released last week by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Group showed that 31 percent of households planned Black Friday shopping this year, compared with 26 percent in 2009. Consumer Reports magazine, however, found that about 102 million Americans intended to shop on Black Friday or during the following weekend – about 13.6 percent fewer than last year.
Marketing experts say the concept of Black Friday as the kickoff for the holiday shopping season dates back to the 1800s. Thanksgiving Day parades were sponsored by merchants, particularly department stores, and concluded with a float carrying Santa Claus. Immediately after, the retailers began their promotions.
“It became a vehicle for department stores, and then for everybody, to use this as a launch for the advertising season for Christmas,” Shrum said. “You weren’t supposed to advertise Christmas before Thanksgiving.”
The link between Thanksgiving and shopping was strengthened in 1939. Until then, the country still celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, according to the National Archives. That year, as the nation continued to pull itself out of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving fell on the final day of the month.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt feared the abbreviated Christmas shopping season would harm economic recovery, according to the archives, so he moved the holiday to the second to last Thursday of November.
“If we didn’t have Black Friday, people would still buy for Christmas and everything else, but it would be two weeks before Christmas,” Boone said.
For the second year, Cheryl Clark planned a Black Friday outing to buy toys and clothes for her three daughters. The 22-year-old mom has a long list that includes Barbie dolls, Lego building sets, slippers, sleepwear, a hand-mixer and other deals she found online. On Thanksgiving morning, she and her sister would start with sales at Bass Pro Shops in Hampton.
“You can get a lot of what you need for Christmas,” she said. “The savings are really good, so I’ll probably be done shopping for Christmas on Black Friday.”
Last year, she got her children pajamas for $5 each, plus dolls and a Thermos for her husband for $15.
“I’m going to make it a routine to do it every year,” she said. “It’s my new tradition.”