Working at an agency where I can obsess over retail, I’ve started appreciating the impact it has on my life. I love the industry because as NRF says, “Retail impacts everyone, every day, everywhere,” and it’s true. As I sit down to write this blog, waiting for inspiration to hit, vivid retail memories come to mind.
A Retail “Remember When?”
One of my earliest memories of Black Friday was in seventh grade when a classmate chose an early-morning shopping spree as a “birthday party” of sorts. The day after Thanksgiving, her mom picked up our group of friends in the family van, passing back orange juice and brown-bag breakfasts to enjoy as we headed for the mall. The year was 2002 – “back then,” stores didn’t open until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. We were among the first people inside when the security gates were lifted. At that age, Black Friday to me wasn’t about Christmas gifts or strategizing my purchases. It was the thrill of the hunt, feeling like a grown-up in the holiday bustle and looking for bargains. I remember buying a pair of trendy sunglasses for less than $2 and thinking, “this is so fun!”
Knowing what I do now about the current retail landscape, I wondered if a little Googling would provide more perspective on that memory of mine. The furthest back I could go was 2004, but it was still a fun window to the past. Try it for yourself… the Black Friday Archive serves up more than 850 ads from the past 15 years. You’ll get a kick out of all the landline phones with Caller ID and portable DVD players, and you can make your own observations on the evolution of Black Friday.
The “Black Friday Creep”
I’m a Target girl through and through, so I started exploring its ad archive first. In 2004, deals started Friday at 6:00 a.m. By 2010, Target opened at 4:00 in the morning, then midnight in 2011, and 9:00 p.m. Thursday in 2012. You already know the rest of the story. In the year 2018, many stores will open before some families have sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal. When looking at the collection of past ads, it’s easy to see how this trend evolved. Slowly but surely, Black Friday sales crept into middle-of-the-night territory, and then into the Thursday evening hours. And this year, JCPenny made headlines when it announced it would open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s earlier than any other retailer yet.
For the first time ever, forecasts predict Christmas sales in the U.S. to surpass $1 trillion, and this year, the first day of November was very noticeably the kick-off of a big push to shop. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and others started special promotions the day after Halloween, all competing for a share of your wallet. In the years to come, we’ll continue to see retailers dazzling us with deals and experiences each of the 54 days between Halloween and Christmas. Whether Black Friday will continue to be an important 24 hours of retail activity remains to be seen.
Smile, Then Shop
Four years after that birthday party, where did I find myself the Friday after Thanksgiving? In “Zone 1” of Bath & Body Works, working my first day as an employee there (side note: probably not the wisest day to start a retail job). That day is no less vivid than my first Black Friday memory. I was stationed at the store’s entrance with shopping bags and a ‘Tester’ bottle of peppermint lotion. Frenzied shoppers breezed right by me, too focused on the center-store deals to pay me any attention. I’ll never forget how frazzled yet energized I felt. This year, I don’t plan to do much in-store shopping, but I’ll leave you with this: if you’re gift hunting in-store this holiday season, be nice to retail workers. Even if it’s just a smile at the nervous high school girl trying her darndest to make your “offline” shopping experience a fun one.