Black Friday retail sales in the US: bricks v clicks

Last Friday was Black Friday in the USA. This is the traditional start to the Christmas shopping season, always immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday and featuring absolute pandemonium in stores across the country.

The origin of Black Friday is somewhat lost in the mist of time, but the most credible explanation from recent decades has been that this is the point at which retail companies go ‘into the black’ – though many just attribute this to the media needing an explanation for the name.

The tradition itself may have its roots in the USA, but retail is often conducted online these days and brands such as Apple and Amazon have taken the tradition from their home territory out to new markets via the Internet. Last year IBM calculated that sales at the 500 top retail companies shot up by 24.3% on Black Friday so there is clearly an effect.

But how will that effect change over time? Shoppers in the US get so excited about shopping on Black Friday the fever pitch can sometimes spill over into violence. Just last week an argument over a parking spot in Florida resulted in two people being shot – all in pursuit of a bargain?

In the UK our big annual sales are traditionally after Christmas, but they used to be after the New Year and have stealthily crept forward to Boxing Day – now some even start before Christmas.

People still get excited about sales and the thrill of a bargain, but will that decline, as the online experience gets better? Online shopping has none of the fever of a traditional sale – you just expect a bargain every time because it’s easy to compare prices at every store.

But the figures from retailers in the US are telling. The biggest success of Black Friday was the online giant Amazon, but the next four retailers were all traditional bricks and mortar outlets. Perhaps there is still life in the old-style sale yet?

Black Friday(Mansfield)


Photo by George Artwood licensed under Creative Commons

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