Weird Stuff

Black Friday: Christmas Chaos

posted by Chris Valentine
Black Friday Crowd at Great Mall (Photo #3)

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Christmas is generally a very hectic time of year for shopping. The most profitable months in retail are in the run up to the biggest Christian holiday in the Western Calendar. The fortnight before Christmas is undoubtedly the worst. Heavy numbers of shoppers panic buy and squander money on presents, creating long queues and suffocating stampedes in shops.

However, in the midst of this madness, some genius created the idea of one discount shopping day in the middle of the Christmas rush in order to boost sales that big bit extra. While shoppers are aware that prices are inflated in the run up to Christmas, and all the items they purchase will inevitably be cheaper come Boxing Day,  there spending is uninhibited. Stores compete to attract buyer’s attention, as many sale the same or similar items. As a result, shoppers are frequently conned into purchasing offers like “3 for 2” or “buy one get one half price.”

That is largely overshadowed by the biggest retail day in the western calendar, known as “Black Friday”. Black Friday originates in the United States of America. It falls the day after Thanksgiving which is the fourth Thursday in November. Retailers open ridiculously early to cope with the volume of customers. Promotions on items and goods are ridiculous: often they are discounted more than 50% during this 24 hour period. The appeal for cash-starved Christmas shoppers is obvious. Until this year, Black Friday was contained to within the USA.

The spread of Black Friday to the UK has highlighted the many problems with the day. Although in theory no-one can complain about a discount shopping day, in practice, the sales cause mass mania. Hysterical crowds are known to become easily agitated and impatient, which eventually leads to aggression. This year, one shopper in the USA was crushed to death by a stampede of shoppers. This is the first death as a result of the day. In the UK, things were not quite so drastic, perhaps due to lack of awareness or interest in the sales. In spite of this, there were serious incidents recorded. In one store, an employee was crushed and had his arm broken by an angry mob after one of the sales items sold out. Altercations between customers are not uncommon during Black Friday and the police are regularly called to control crowds and behaviour in North America.

In spite of several injures, Black Friday was hailed a success in the UK by retailers, although only time will tell whether shoppers are prepared to suffer through the crowds and chaos for a before Christmas bargain. Retailers involved predict great things for coming years, and retail experts expect more and more stores to introduce Black Friday. Shoppers who do not require the presents for Christmas may not share their beliefs. The sales are very similar to traditional Boxing Day Sales in the UK. Shops open at regular times, but discounts are dramatic. Retailers attempt to get rid of leftover Christmas stock quickly to make way for incoming new stock, and slash prices. Without as many queues and hassles as Black Friday, these sales may continue to prove more popular. The sales  last longer, running into weeks or months, so shoppers are more relaxed knowing  the products will be available for longer, and the discounts increase as time goes on. Shoppers who do not need the items specifically before Christmas, (i.e. for presents) may be more inclined to wait until after the initial rush, and have the patience for post-Christmas sales.

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