Is COVID the End of the Black Friday Shopping Era?
By Olivia Haveron
As the COVID-19 Pandemic carries on amidst the end of the year, Black Friday shopping nears closer and closer, urging for the start of the Christmas season to begin. Black Friday usually means packed, long lines, people fighting over random items, and deals galore. However, with COVID-19 seemingly getting much worse before it gets remotely better, as the U.S averages 173,165 cases per day over the past week, stores get prepared to see massive crowds this Friday.
Or are they?
Many shops are ditching the concept of Black Friday this year to opt for a safer way to shop. This bears the question: is this the end of Black Friday shopping for America’s materialistic nature.
Target, for starters, ahead of the holiday season campaign, began to release a series of Black Friday-themed ads in late October. However, the promotions weren’t to start on November 27th surprisingly. Instead, the campaign encouraged customers to shop all throughout the month of November for ongoing deals. One commercial goes as far to state: “This year, Target has Black Friday deals all November with new deals each week -- in store, and on Target.com. So you can get all the Black Friday savings without all of the Black Friday stress.”
And the ad brings up a good point. The whole concept of Black Friday shopping is anxiety-inducing. For decades, the American capitalist tradition revered as a performative concept of the Christmas season to draw in the consumer. However, this time of the year also brings out the worst in individuals. Many push, shove, and even punch their way to get the best deals around, which oftentimes aren't actually very good deals. People become literal vicious monsters on this materialistic ‘holiday.’
While the tradition has been on the decline for years with the rise of online shopping and Cyber Monday taking over the season, the pandemic has dramatically seen a shift in shopping patterns for consumers, dealing what could be a fatal blow to Black Friday as we know it. According to Peter Fader, the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia professor of marketing at Wharton, “Black Friday is the worst thing that marketers could do—it’s that one day a year when we treat all of our worst customers like royalty and spend all of this money, extra hours and services giving discounts knowing that they’re not going to be back again until next year at this time.” The day hurts the relationship between the loyal customer who shops there more than once a year, who ends up suffering through the crowds instead.
Target is not the only super retailer to have stepped away from Black Friday promotions. Many companies have been striving to limit in-person crowds and make better use of online merchandising. Best Buy and Walmart are also spreading out their deals to stop foot traffic in their stores. The first wave of deals at the later company started online on November fourth, followed by more on the seventh. The final spree is expected to include online discounts through November 25th with new in-store discounts beginning on the 27th.
Other stores like REI announced that its stores would close the day after Thanksgiving, encouraging customers to actually spend time indoors instead of shopping, and providing a purpose over profit initiative.
The problem that arises is that many stores are closed on Thanksgiving, but they are still open on Black Friday. Most stores will continue to open up between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m., and yes, there will be a face mask requirement because there’s a global pandemic. So yes, deals are happening all month prior, but people will still shop, then to save money.
Personally, I don't believe that COVID is the true end of the Black Friday. For starters, many people still don’t take the pandemic as seriously as they should, even with rising cases. The people who are shopping on this day more than likely care less about the pandemic. In addition, although online shopping is on the rise, many people still prefer shopping for certain products in-person.
Unless stores close completely on Black Friday, the tradition will never truly end. The tradition of Black Friday epitomizes the materialistic consumer culture of American society, that not even a global pandemic can stop people from shopping until they drop… literally.