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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
The Beneficial Chaos of Black Friday
Ah, the holiday season. Were you crazy enough to go out into the world and shop at the crack of dawn this past Friday? I did so for the first time. I wouldn’t exactly call it a joyful experience, but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Okay, it was close.
I already had in mind that I wasn’t going to spend the entire day pursuing every store in town for great bargains. After all, I’m seven months pregnant right now, and didn’t think that would be the best idea for me, especially by myself. So, I compared ads and found one location were I could get multiple items at a great price. Most of the items I bought were for my photography business, actually.
My husband had to be at work at 6:30 Friday morning, so I decided to just drop him off and save some gas, since the store I was headed to was on the same side of town anyway. We left at 6:00am, thinking traffic would be horrible. But, taking the highway most of the way there, we found that there was hardly anyone on the road. My husband was very early for work, to say the least. So my expectations, at that point, were leaning toward the positive side.
As I headed toward the shopping center, however, reality set in. There was no one on the highway because every car in town was sitting at the same intersection! I couldn’t help but sit there, waiting for traffic to move, and laugh out loud at how we really were all a bunch of lunatics (myself included). And, as I arrived safely at the store of choice, I couldn’t help but laugh again, as there were cars parked on every blade of grass available. Honestly, who in the right mind willingly puts themselves through such chaos.
As I wandered around the store and grabbed what few items on my list I could find, and then waited in line for over 45 minutes (makes for some great conversation with strangers, if you’re a social butterfly like myself), I wondered how the whole concept of “Black Friday” began in the first place. I mean, what really brought all of us together at 6:00 in the morning?
Most believe the term was coined from business accounting methods. Traditionally, when figuring balances in accounting books, businesses wrote negatives in red ink and positives in black. It is understood that “Black Friday” is when most retailers start to see a profit rather than a loss. However, this theory, which can be traced back to an ABC news broadcast in 1982, doesn’t calculate correctly. It implies that retailers would be in the negative for eleven months out of the year, which is highly improbable. And, in fact, examining the quarterly reports of any major retailer (Wal-Mart, Target, etc) would reveal profits throughout the year.
A more likely explanation, according to a Wikipedia article on the topic, dates back to November 29, 1975, when The New York Times and Associated Press both made the first references to “Black Friday.” Apparently, the term was coined by Philadelphia cab and bus drivers, in comparison to days like “Black Tuesday” (the day the stock market crashed in 1929), because traffic was overwhelmed with shoppers the day after Thanksgiving.
So, apparently we shoppers came up with the idea on our own . . . all at the same time, as it would seem . . . and retailers started going along for the ride. I would imagine that, initially, store weren’t open at 4:00 a.m. But as “Black Friday” began to become a tradition and more and more shoppers lined up at the doors, retailers saw an opportunity. And what an opportunity it has become. Even retailers who don’t have it in their budget to advertise outrageous discounts, can mark down items and get some shopping traffic because their located in the same shopping center as Wal-Mart.
Everyone benefits from “Black Friday.” The retailers make tons of money and consumers get amazing deals. We all just put up with the crowds and crankiness because we find it worth it in the end. And if you have an online store, today is your day, as it has been deemed “Cyber Monday.” Same concept, only less physical traffic (though don’t be surprised if your server gets overwhelmed).
As a small business owner, if you’re not taking advantage of the extra profit available through the overwhelming number of shoppers following Turkey Day, then you should start working on a plan for next year. It will be well worth the headache, I assure you (just be sure to make extra parking available).
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