Black Friday

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The phenomenon of Black Friday

Bustling city streets, hour-long lines, and retail store chaos: only one scenario explains the commonality between these situations, shopping on Black Friday. For half a century Black Friday has become an unofficial retail holiday in the United States. It is a day that offers incredible discounts and killer deals, and most notoriously, it brings a frenzy of crazed shoppers to local retailers looking to save on purchases. Marketing strategies, paired with consumers’ need to locate the best deals on Christmas gifts has led to Black Friday being celebrated as a consumption ritual comparable in importance to Thanksgiving Day. (Thomas and Peters, 2011) How has Black Friday become the largest retail sales day of the year? What is it that drives people to artificially induced hyper consumption, almost like an annual ritual? Many scientist and psychologists have many different theories and conclusions of why Black Friday has become the biggest shopping day of the year. In this paper, I will take your through the research and conclusions that many psychologists have produced and the advantages and disadvantages of Black Friday.

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. explored the work of Jane Boyd Thomas and Cara Peters, professors at South Carolina's Winthrop University, who spent two years in research trying to find common traits in Black Friday shoppers. They conducted thirty-eight extensive interviews with “experienced" Black Friday shoppers and found four recurring themes:

1. Familial bonding (multiple generations and close friends) 2. Strategic planning
3. The great race
4. Mission accomplished

But how do the four themes they came up with relate to one another? Thomas and Peters figured that all the traits when analyzed together showed one commonality. They wrote, "the traits are coalesced around a military metaphor, and is a bonding activity Shoppers prepare for the ritual by scanning Black Friday ads, and they map out their strategy.” (Sarkis 2011) In essence, the family is a type of team that scans adds, plans their route and potential purchases, executes their plans by buying products, and rejoices in their accomplishments. When all of these traits are analyzed individually, they mean little to main the main outcome, bonding. But when all the traits are looked at collectively, they all contribute to the overall success and goal of bonding. Besides giving us a breakdown of bonding activities, the analysis also shows how the average consumer plan for Black Friday.

Just as Sarkis found themes that make up this military metaphor, Byun, professor of consumer affairs at Auburn University came up with her own theory on why people react the way they do on Black Friday. “Crowds create a sense of competition — such as when hundreds of shoppers are rushing to collect marked-down goods — they generate a different feeling entirely. Competition creates what’s called hedonic shopping value, or a sense of enjoyment from the mere process of buying goods. At certain levels, consumers enjoy arousal and challenges during the shopping process.” (Khazan 2011) In essence what Byun is saying is consumers get more enjoyment because the crowds create an obstacle, which hinders the execution of the plans and preparations made. The crowds make getting what they want harder, which creates more value for the goods purchased.

Just as Byun noted that crowds contribute to the Black Friday Craze, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. describes another factors that plays a big part in the “Black Friday frenzy”. Retailers, she notes, use innovative designs to lure customers into their stores and keep them there. McGonigal says “time pressure sales on limited products or scarce resources” triggers a negative physiological affect on the consumer. Scarcity for a certain commodity creates a sense of urgency to act now, a natural instinct to survive. This survival instinct can be related to hunting for some people....
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