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 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!
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