Black Friday puts consumers in the red
Personally I don’t participate in the Black Friday madness, which this year continued a trend of working backwards into the Thursday of Thanksgiving. Some finished their dinner leftovers and hustled over to retailers like Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us which opened late Thursday evening to cater to those who didn’t want to get up at oh-dark-hundred to seize the best bargains. (I think KMart actually had some Thursday morning doorbusters as well.)
According to retail researchers, though, sales aren’t expected to increase as much as they did last year over the 2010 season nor will as many people participate in the Black Friday weekend shopping spree (although it may not necessarily mean those people wouldn’t have shopped Thursday night.) Still, I doubt America will anytime soon turn its back on the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.
I’ve often said that the idea of having “stuff” for its own sake isn’t all that appealing to me, so perhaps I’m not the best arbiter of what would be a successful holiday season. Obviously these large retailers are pinning their hopes for sizable profit for the year on the last 33 days before Christmas, and if the promise of some off-brand big-screen TV for an unheard of price is enough to bring people in to buy the additional more regularly-priced items for which retailers use the loss leaders as a draw, then I guess P.T. Barnum is still right.
On the other hand, there is also a growing movement that tells us we need to eschew the big box stores and shop local on Saturday. Obviously they’re not going to have the gadgets and gizmos the behemoths of the business world can acquire at some low price from a Chinese distributor, but they have more unique wares that could fulfill the wishes of some of those hard-to-shop-for people on the list. There has to be a balance somewhere.
We are in a day and age where everyone is in debt, from the federal government to those whose equity in their homes is long gone thanks to the crashing real estate market. Considering that much of what is being bought this weekend will be all but functionally obsolete in the next few years, perhaps this is a good time to step back and reevaluate what Christmas is all about. If it’s about giving, maybe consider what you give and where you get it from.
Trust me, I am all about capitalism, efficiency in markets, and all that jazz. But over the years I’ve watched the commercialism of the season become more crass and those who partake in the buying frenzy act with less class. It kind of puts people out of the Christmas spirit.