Opinion: Black Friday is Dead, Long Live Black Friday

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Well, it’s finally happened.

After years of migration to online and mobile shopping, and the watering down of Black Friday with November-long promotions, the day-after-Thanksgiving as we knew it is no longer.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Black Friday shopping was almost a post-turkey ritual, where families would pore over newspaper inserts and devise a plan of attack that could make General Patton smile. For some, that would entail queuing up overnight in a strip mall parking lot, all to secure a limited-quantity TV or computer at prices that were, to quote New York’s old Crazy Eddie TV commercials, “Insaaaaane!”

Usually the atmosphere was convivial, not unlike a tailgating party, with some retailers even handing out complimentary coffee to the waiting crowd. Savvy merchants could afford the coffee and the doorbuster discounts though, because once inside on the checkout line, sleep-deprived customers were all too willing to accept high-margin add-ons like screen cleaners, surge protectors, overpriced cables, and of course extended warranties.

Occasionally though, the mood would turn ugly, and reached its nadir when a Walmart worker was trampled to death 11 years ago by a surging Black Friday crowd.

The good news is we’ll likely never see another doorbuster stampede, better crowd control measures aside, while at the same time those pre-dawn shopping parties are becoming a thing of the past. That’s because, based on the early results from this past Black Friday, eCommerce has conclusively wrested the day away from brick-and-mortar retail. As CNBC reports, preliminary data from traffic monitor ShopperTrak shows that day-after-Thanksgiving sales at physical stores fell 6.2 percent year over year, while online revenue hit a record $7.4 billion, representing the second-biggest digital shopping day ever, according to Adobe Analytics.

Anecdotal accounts of thinner crowds and even empty parking lots lend further support to the figures, reflecting the fact that those once in-store-only deals are now readily available on our phones.

So what does this all mean to BrandSource members? Probably not a whole heckuva lot. TVs aside, big-ticket items like furniture and major appliances are still largely an in-store, kick-the-tires purchase, while the strides in eCommerce achieved by AVB Marketing have made members contenders online as well – no doubt contributing in part to the $3 billion digital haul Adobe projected for Small Business Saturday.

So say goodbye to those 4:00 a.m. shopping queues. But I sure do miss checking out the newspaper ads after that last helping of sweet potato pie.

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.