What the Heck Happened to Black Friday?

Just a couple of years ago, Black Friday seemed to be an unmistakable and sometimes unfortunate American cultural phenomenon. Its slow but steady decline began a few years ago, but this year the unofficial shopping holiday’s popularity plummeted in terms of both sales and attention.

We spoke to a couple of LeBow professors to get their take on what happened to Black Friday.

Daniel Korschun, assistant professor of marketing, says that by extending Black Friday shopping into Thanksgiving Day and through the weekend, retailers have taken the urgency out of the Black Friday sales. “Shoppers may feel that even if they miss this weekend’s sales, another may be just around the corner.”

Furthermore, he says, “retailers are essentially spreading revenues over a longer period. In some cases, this will reduce profitability because they need to staff the stores for more hours over the holiday weekend. The problem is, retailers are playing a game where they believe they must do this or lose out to those who do. It has turned into a vicious cycle of competition that may be turning off shoppers.”

Mark Stehr, associate professor of economics, agrees. “Consumers are tuning it out because they’ve already been bombarded with other sales for a few weeks.” He also cites a decrease in the disposable income of the middle class due in part to rising costs of “optional necessities” like smartphones and Internet access as a factor.

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