As much as I’d like to think that Black Friday is a greedy retail industry conspiracy to fleece gullible consumers out of their hard-earned cash, I can’t deny the fact that it offers shoppers really good deals.
In fact, Black Friday has become so popular — last year, over 1 million shoppers braved the crowds to get average in-store “doorbuster” discounts of 37 percent — that similar retail events have cropped up such as Singles Day, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Super Saturday. It seems like every retailer is grabbing for a chunk of the $1.05 trillion in sales predicted for the 2017 holiday shopping season.
As trendy as these retail events are, I’ve never been motivated to shop so soon after Thanksgiving. I’m too busy trying to get the burnt bits off of the bottom of the roasting pan to care. Besides, the puzzle isn’t done, there are more football games to watch, and I promised everyone I’d make tetrazzini with the leftover turkey.
I prefer to wait a couple more weeks to start shopping in earnest, just long enough for abject panic to set in. Why get everything purchased, packaged and shipped, when I could pay top dollar after the competition slows down, then stand in line for an hour at the post office only to be told that my package will arrive too late for Christmas?
Perhaps I’m a Black Friday flunky because of my upbringing. I grew up in a small town where the only shopping done on Black Friday was for pork products and beer. This is because the day after Thanksgiving was when men and boys left to go hunting. Every year, my father and a dozen of his friends ensconced themselves in fluorescent orange and headed out to our hunting camp — a small cinderblock cabin on a wooded pond in rural Western Pennsylvania. Everyone in those parts had school and work off on Monday and Tuesday for deer hunting season, so for five days, they tracked deer, ate like kings, watched football and played poker.
Even though I was left at home with my mother, she wasn’t much for shopping for the latest trends. I was encouraged to wear thick yarn hair ribbons, saddle shoes, and polyester dresses with white cardigan sweaters until I was in the seventh grade. By adolescence, any burgeoning fashion sense that I was developing had withered and died, apparently asphyxiated by those stifling cardigan sweaters. I had to master the basics if I was going to survive high school, so I armed myself with simple color matching skills, lots of denim, and a pair of brown shoes. My most fashion-forward outfit was an orange wool sweater, a knee-length denim skirt, matching orange knee socks, and those brown shoes. That was as good as it was gonna get.
After marriage, I was still the last one to clue into the latest trends among my peer group. In the 90s, while the other navy wives were toasting pine nuts, wearing distressed jeans, painting their walls “Claret,” and listening to Alanis Morrissette, I was obliviously content in my shoulder-pad-reinforced sweater, drinking a Zima in my Williamsburg blue kitchen with the duck toaster caddy.
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep up with trends. Just when I thought I’d discovered the latest craze, it was already on a clearance rack at Big Lots or on the buffet at Golden Corral.
But there is good news for unsavvy shoppers like me. Apparently, the numbers are on our side. According to PwC market research, shoppers are becoming disenchanted with Black Friday. Only 35 percent plan to shop the day after Thanksgiving, down from 51 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2015. Eighty-one percent of consumers feel that holiday shopping is stressful, and 45 percent mark Black Friday as the most nerve-racking time to shop. So this year, the largest group of consumers plan to do their holiday buying during the second week of December to avoid the Thanksgiving week rush altogether.
I guess, after all those years of being a Black Friday flunky, I’m finally a trendsetter after all.