Black Friday a Make-or-Break for Retailers?

Black Friday is the official kick off for holiday shopping and retailers tend to pull out all the stops. With competitive prices it can be difficult to differentiate between which retailers have the best sales. The question remains, is really the best shopping day of the year? How has it transitioned from a one-day mega sale to a nearly week-long event? The following analyzes the evolution of Black Friday from sales to the impact it has on both consumers and retailers.

Evolution of Black Friday

There is a negative connotation behind Black Friday dates back to the 1950s in Philadelphia. Officers gave this nickname due to the chaos of all the shopping the day after Thanksgiving. By the early 1980s, it became a nationwide sensation. Retailers capitalized on the high demand and the time of year to work in their favor. Furthermore, many people had the day off and it became a primetime to shop at the Big Box stores. There is a shift in shopping from brick-and-mortar to online which leaves a question, how popular is Black Friday?

Expansions of Sales

Black Friday sales have expanded into a 5-day long event including Thanksgiving, Saturday, Sunday, and Cyber Monday. The sizing of the crowds varies depending on the day, but they are notoriously chaotic, and stores are overly congested.

Thanksgiving Shopping Backlash

In recent years they have pushed up the hours from Thanksgiving night to Thanksgiving afternoon opposed to the standard of Midnight on Black Friday. Big Box Stores opened as early as 5pm and 6pm this year with plenty of in-store exclusive deals to get customers to take a break from their Thanksgiving meal. Aside from shoppers getting early access, there has been backlash from employees. In 2012 a Target employee started a petition after Target announced that the store would be opening at 9pm. There have been 60 petitions signed since then, but competition between top retailers has prevented any changes and the result was stores opening even earlier.

Cyber Monday

Black Friday has morphed into a week-long event with stores extending sales from Friday into the following Monday, and most recently adding Thanksgiving to the mix. The National Retail Federation (NRF) coined the term “Cyber Monday” in a 2005 press release:

77% of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday.

Online shoppers have the luxury of buying what they want from the comfort of their homes versus standing in lines that wrap around the store. This is a major bonus for those that have to work as they can access these sales from their mobile devices. Aside from the convenience, stores also offer free shipping and flash sales. For example, Kohl’s offers free shipping on purchases $50 or more. An NRF survey found that 59% planned to shop online which adds to the over 6,000 store closings this year. While Cyber Monday is the tail-end of the sales, it will be a make-or-break situation for many retailers as they attempt to maintain their relevancy.

Are the Sales Really the Best of the Year?

Stores no longer wait for Black Friday to give discounts to shoppers, but it still has the illusive appeal that it has had for decades. With holiday shopping advertisements happening right after Halloween, shoppers are taking notice and getting out earlier and earlier ahead of the crowds. What deals, if any, are worth it?


Doorbusters are a standout on Black Friday and have been popular as in-store exclusives. While pricing varies by location, what’s in the store may not necessarily be online which is what gives retailers leverage of getting customers to come out and shop. Many stores are now offering doorbusters online beginning Thanksgiving week giving shoppers early access to deals. Customer should take notice of limitations:

  • Limited-time
  • Available while supplies last
  • No rain checks
  • No coupons allowed
  • Minimum 2 per store
  • In Store Only

These limitations are listed in the holiday circulars and used to be specifically at physical locations. Doorbusters have expanded to online which is a bonus for shoppers. There are still those strictly sold in-store’s such as Best Buy’s Toshiba 55″ LED TV.

Electronics are always a surefire way for retailers to get customers in-stores with steep discounts on TVs, tablets, computers, and other accessories. They can access them online, but shoppers continuously line up for the instant gratification. Toys are not to be excluded with gifts being purchased for holiday shopping.

Future Projections

The competition between the Big Box stores should not go unnoticed. The merchandise is the same, so stores will have to be creative in making themselves standout and get customers to their locations. Store chains that are becoming obsolete will have to find a place, if they can, to maintain. Who will release sales first? Will electronics continue to be the prime seller?

Smaller chains struggle to keep up with Big Box Stores that in turn amplify their sales with higher discounts and bundled deals. While a Big Box store may win over stores phasing out, they have stiff competition with the king of e-commerce, Amazon. Amazon is a unique platform bar sells a variety of products with ease to customers. Black Friday weekend is a true test to see what retailers can make-or-break it and maintain relevancy.

Sharon Shichor is the CEO of Eighteen Knowledge Group LLC, your solution and knowledge base for brand building and getting your products and services in the hands of consumers.

Want to learn more about Marketing solutions and trends? Visit our company page and blog for more on the subjects that affect your company’s daily operations the most!


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