It’s true, shopping is a drug for many of us. Like any other activity that brings us pleasure (illicit or otherwise), we can become shopping addicts. When confronted with the exhilarating sights and sounds of a big sale – the people, the music, the point-of-purchase displays, the shiny and colorful products all arranged just so – can be a real high. In response to such a stimulating environment, our brains release chemicals like Dopamine and Serotonin that produce feelings of pleasure that we want to experience again and again. Thus, we keep coming back for more.
I thought it was my duty to warn you of such events given the proximity of one of the biggest, most exciting shopping days of the year – Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving has become a holiday unto itself – the official beginning of the holiday shopping season. The “day after” Thanksgiving, however, may be a misnomer. Many big retailers like Best Buy and Target, to name a few, are opening their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving Day – what the Wall Street Journal refers to as “Black Midnight”.
Let me share with you a few tidbits about Black Friday. First, it’s not necessarily the biggest annual shopping day. That distinction often belongs to the last Saturday before Christmas or Christmas Eve (for us procrastinators). Second, Black Friday had a fairly inauspicious beginning. The first direct mention of a Black Friday occurred in January of 1966 in Philadelphia, PA. The Philly police coined the term to describe the throngs of post-Thanksgiving shoppers who swarmed the malls eager for Christmas bargains and in doing so created traffic accidents, traffic jams, altercations among shoppers, and numerous calls for emergency medical attention. Third, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the behest of retailers, moved Thanksgiving to a week earlier to allow for more shopping days during the Depression. A fourth tidbit about Black Friday is that in modern parlance it is used to designate the retailer’s revenue shift from in the “red” (loss) to into the “black” (profit). A good share of the typical retailer’s revenue and profit occurs during the months of November and December.
Well, now you may know more about Black Friday than you really wanted to. Regardless of what you thought of the little “history lesson” above, I expect to see most of you at the mall on Black Friday. One estimate is that 50% of Americans will be shopping before 8:00 am on the shopping day to top all shopping days. See you there.
Dr. Jim RobertsDr. Roberts is a leading researcher on consumer behavior and the Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His book SHINY OBJECTS is available on Amazon.
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