A national holiday nearly as important as Thanksgiving has surged in the past decade and is beginning to collapse just as fast. On Nov. 26, Black Friday took place, with a massive dark cloud hanging over the holidays this year due to the Pandemic. Shopping in stores saw a 28.3% decline from pre-pandemic levels, an alarming statistic, however those who did show up were left disappointed. This season has been cursed with shipping delays and a labor shortage, setting up this consumerist spectacle for disaster. Black Friday has been manipulated to become a storm for spending, and although this event is meant to bring profit margins “into the black,” this year’s Black Friday is proof of the financial devastation from the past year.
According to CNBC, the average Black Friday shopper spends $313.29 on sale items, often using this day as a way to get away from the stress of their families after a tense Thanksgiving holiday. Consumer research has shown that people see Black Friday deals as better than they really are because of marketing tactics that convey the sense of thrilling, limited-time offers. Despite this perception, in reality, retail stores this year are less willing to discount items due to the economic devastation from the past year. Another phenomenon that occurs is called “shopping momentum” which is when a purchase creates a psychological impulse, encouraging you to purchase a second product, and so on. Shopping leads to more shopping. However, this irresponsible spending can frequently end in buyer’s regret and excessive purchases, doing more harm than good.
Aside from psychological manipulation occurring, this occasion also creates an environment ripe for disaster, with violence erupting every year as people scramble to take advantage of sales. According to blackfridaydeathcount.com, a website created specifically for that purpose, 14 deaths and 117 injuries have occurred since 2006. Tragic stories of stampedes and murders over electronics display the terrifyingly dark side of just how far people will go to save a few dollars. Shoppers in recent years have decided to do their shopping earlier in the year to avoid the risk of violence, and it has reflected in profit margins.
With the current supply chain issues, an overwhelming pessimism for Black Friday 2021 occurred in anticipation of the event. Amid short supplies and shipping delays (USPS has slowed its target delivery window by 30%) along with fewer profits for business, deals throughout the past few months have been weaker than normal, and the trend has extended to Black Friday. With the economic crises experienced by both consumers and companies in 2020, they are less likely to be feeling generous enough to drop prices to encourage shoppers to spend money in 2020, and consumers are less likely to have the margins to spend as much.
This year in particular, according to a holiday shopping report by Adobe Analytics, Black Friday online spending has dipped lower than the previous year for the first time, falling a little short of the $9 billion that was spent in 2020, down to $8.9 billion. Along with this, shopping in person saw cratered from pre-pandemic levels. This downward trend is an example of a larger shift occurring. Shoppers are beginning to rethink their attitude toward Black Friday, either shifting to the online Cyber Monday, or saving their shopping for other days altogether, avoiding disaster at the expense of deals.