It was something like 40, maybe 50 years ago when the local department store in Endwell, N.Y., announced that it would stay open until midnight on Christmas Eve to allow procrastinators the chance to do some last-minute shopping. The reaction was a collective gasp from the community (or at least in MY family) — but the store was packed that night.
As a youngster, I recall my parents thinking how crazy those people were to wait until Christmas Eve to do their shopping.
The trend for stores to stay open late the night before Christmas caught on, but soon became less popular as another trend began to catch fire some years back: Black Friday.
Of course, Black Friday is hardly a single day anymore. The “busiest shopping day of the year,” after getting a midnight start for several years, now starts on Thanksgiving day and the bargain shopping pretty much lasts through Sunday — about a 66-hour mega shop-a-thon.
For many, there is no decision about whether they will become part of the rush to shopping malls that will look very much like a fire-ant mound that has just been kicked by a mean little young’un. The biggest decision for these folks, complete with sales fliers jammed in the crook of their arm, centers around where to attack and when as they venture “out there.”
In the minority are those who have absolutely no interest in being part of a mob that is hell-bent on being one of thousands trying to claim the only two marked-down televisions or gaming devices or cell phones that do everything from give directions to the next super-packed shopping center and cook your dinner.
For these wise individuals, a quiet 66-hour “day” is what they covet. No waking at ridiculous hours. No fighting with traffic. No rushing to stores. No frustration at not finding what they want. Instead, just a calm 66-hour “day” filled with watching movies or sports or soap operas … whatever is their thing.
These intelligent folks can avoid the 66-hours of Black Friday because they have either already finished their Christmas shopping, have plans to shop online or are content to wait until the mobs have subsided before venturing out to the stores.
It’s certainly understandable why merchants have grasped onto the Black Friday marketing trend. After all, the whole thing is consumer driven. Open and they will come — and come they do. In droves. For merchants, the 66 hours of Black Friday makes perfect fiscal sense.
For the bargain-hunting consumer, even the potential to save money on items they may not otherwise even consider purchasing is enough to launch them into the ebb and flow of the massive sea of shoppers. It’s the age-old story of bargain shopping — someone comes home from 66 hours “out there” with a pile of Christmas bargains, including one for themselves, and they proclaim their proudness for tracking down and purchasing such prizes at a discounted cost. In looking through the bargains, the spouse suddenly says, “but we don’t need a 12-speed Ninja coffee bar … we don’t drink coffee.” To which the shopper replies, “I know, but I was the first one to grab it and it only cost $257 … I saved $10!”
And then there is the stay-at-home individual. Even having to work is far less irritable than the thought of being “out there.” But if he does want some excitement during the 66 hours of Black Friday, he can always go out in his yard and kick a fire-ant hill.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at [email protected]