Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is Black Friday dying? If so, it's a slow death

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on DallasNews.com. Please check out the site.
------------

On the day after Thanksgiving in 2005, I set out to write about the wildness and weirdness of Black Friday. The plan was to be in the thick of the frenzy, experience the adrenaline rush as bargain hunters shifted into turbo mode and be on hand for any moment when Black Friday turned into black-eye Friday.

Which is always possible, of course. Sleep deprivation plus competitiveness can lead to a willingness to get physical over a particularly dazzling item, such as a Sesame Street 2-in-1 Giggle Guitar.

Nine years later, the thing that stands out most about that day – other than the amount of abandoned shopping carts rolling across parking lots -- was the time when the stores began opening. I had to be there at 5 a.m., and I thought that was crazy early.

Now 5 a.m. on Black Friday, at least in terms of when the holiday shopping season begins, is crazy late. Most big stores are open on Thanksgiving, a.k.a. “Gray Thursday,” and big sales and extended holiday hours start before Thanksgiving. Give it a few years and shoppers will be lining up for door-buster specials while kids are trick-or-treating.

Or maybe shoppers won’t be lining up at all. Not on Black Friday, anyway, because it seems the longstanding starting gate for holiday shopping is losing its mojo. Some retail analysts even say that America’s iconic day of excitement, excess and exhaustion is headed for extinction.

Could it be true? Black Friday is dying?

If so, one reason is the steady increase in online shopping, which is expected to pull in about $89 billion in sales during this holiday season. That would be a 13 percent increase from last year, when online shopping was already thinning the crowds a bit at the brick-and-mortar stores.

Yes, online shopping is huge. It’s always less hectic, often more convenient, and as often pointed out in references to the growth in online sales, you can shop in your underwear.

That’s true, but clearly, nobody’s getting scared away by a Black Friday dress code. I’ve seen people in slippers, pajamas, robes and hair curlers. If you’ve got a credit card, you can wear whatever you want.
 
* * *

Online sales cut into the Black Friday madness, but the biggest threat to its iconic status is the way the holiday shopping season is stretching out like a post-Thanksgiving waistband. According to the National Retail Federation, 40 percent of consumers now begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. The main reason for that, according to 42 percent of those shoppers in the NRF survey, is that deals are too good to pass up.


Years ago, we thought it was impossible to beat the deals on Black Friday. It was a no-brainer. But now, who knows? There might be a better deal next week. Or maybe we already missed the best deal when we were wearing shorts and buying fun-size candy bars.

I’m not sure Black Friday is dying, considering some of its chaos can still be mistaken for the Running of the Bulls. But if it’s beginning a slow fade, that’s a little sad.

That’s crazy, right? Black Friday is a showcase of greed. It’s the commercialism of Christmas. It’s gluttony on parade.

All true. But it’s also kind of fun.

It’s a guilty pleasure for sure. I rarely do more than dip a toe into the quagmire, but I like watching the shoppers, with their frenetic energy and enthusiasm. It’s a great people-watching expedition, much like a walk down the Las Vegas Strip.

Yeah, I just linked Christmas shopping and Sin City. Now it seems even crazier to bemoan the potential extinction of Black Friday.

But you know, Black Friday is just the start of the holiday season. When the day is done, and you’ve made it through the last checkout line, there’s still plenty of time to get in line with the true meaning and important messages of the holiday season.

Chances are, you’ll see one of those messages on a bumper sticker in a parking lot, right next to an abandoned shopping cart.

***

Black Friday Scavenger Hunt!
Score points as you score deals amid the craziness:

Humor Me: Black Friday Scavenger Hunt
 

***
You can use the buttons above to share the column. Click "Follow
@wixonhumor" to get a Twitter update for new columns. To get columns by e-mail, type your address in the box under "Receive columns by e-mail" near the top right of this page. Thanks!

 
ARCHIVED COLUMNS

Humor Me: A questionnaire for your crazy roommate
Humor Me: If you could, would you be a kid again?
Humor Me: Calculating your own personal heat index
Humor Me: For queen, Olympic smile would be royal pain
Humor Me: The official 2012 Summer Olympics viewers guide
Humor Me: Truth in customer service
Humor Me: 12 CDs for the price of 1 (with nothing more to buy!)
Humor Me: Well-versed on the Fourth of July
Humor Me: Yes, my 4-year-old fainted at the hospital when he thought his mom had been turned into a robot
Humor Me: Happy Father's Day, buffoons of America
Humor Me: Zooey Deschanel, the iPhone and ugh ...
Humor Me: Lights, camera, spell it or else
Humor Me: Man's best friend at any age
Humor Me: When American Idol kicked me out
Humor Me: 90s music in commercials
Humor Me: Soft-serve ice cream and Wal-Mart greeters
Humor Me: One light goes out ...
Humor Me: 20-year high school reunion
Humor Me: Neiman Marcus' Christmas Book
Humor Me: Warning, this is a commercial
Humor Me: Public speaking nightmares
Humor Me: Sleeping on the job
Humor Me: Vacationing with the kids
Humor Me: Signing day at Barnes & Noble
Humor Me: Yoga dropout
Humor Me: Your kid won't be famous
Humor Me: Lover, find your match
Humor Me: Diary of a 1-year-old
Humor Me: It's time for Girl Scout cookies
Humor Me: New Year's Resolutions
Humor Me: Attention frantic shoppers
Humor Me: Here come the carolers
Humor Me: Christmas decorating tips
Humor Me: Holiday brag letter
Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old
Humor Me: A life of trick-or-treating
Humor Me: Where's the actual cat?
Humor Me: The best gift for a kid is not this
Humor Me: Welcome to autumn in Texas
Humor Me: This might not be a drill
Humor Me: My old friend needs some help
Humor Me: You could be huge in the luge
Humor Me: An appointment men hate
Humor Me: Red, white and Rubik
Humor Me: Your Father's Day future
Humor Me: Swimming with the kids
Humor Me: Spelling out success
Humor Me: So long, old friend
Humor Me: Planning a cheapskate vacation
Humor Me: Florence, Minn., population 61
Humor Me: You'll love summer camp ... really!
Humor Me: Surviving cubicle life
Humor Me: The lost Kit Kat opportunity

Humor Me: Taxing times for Americans
Humor Me: Retirement won't be a tearjerker
Humor Me: A degree in schmooze
Humor Me: Dawdling to a better life
Humor Me: Spring cleaning for the brain
Humor Me: Bring on the energy drinks
Humor Me: Your baby needs an airbrush
Humor Me: Memories don't bite the dust
Humor Me: Celebs rule elections, too
Humor Me: Baby, it's a world of wonders