Black Friday…on Thursday?

By November 23, 2015Blog

Thanksgiving is coming up, and what a marvelous time of year it is – we convene as family and friends, share what we are thankful for, pretend calories don’t count, and then pass out on the couch watching football. Unless of course you work in retail. In that case, you’ll likely spend your evening protecting customers from being trampled and breaking up fist fights. There is even a website dedicated to the Black Friday death count.

In one of those great ironies of American society, our gratitude is quickly forgotten once stores open up their doors to heavily discounted products. While stores are certainly concerned with the welfare of their shoppers, Black Friday is biggest day of the year for many retailers. That puts a lot of pressure of retailers to perform; a lackluster Black Friday showing could cause annual sales projection to be missed.

So the race is on! In order to ensure a Black Friday success, retailers employ a number of tactics to bring in customers eager to find the best deals in town. Some stores now offer deals exclusively online, some participate in Cyber Monday, while others extend their Black Friday deal offerings. Target, for instance, has announced that its Black Friday deals will last an impressive 10-days in duration.

This is all great news for the consumer, particularly those who enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” to find the best deals and save a significant amount of money. There is actually a term in behavioral economics that describes that thrill seeking behavior: transaction utility. Consumers can experience the adrenaline rush of scoring a deal on a product they might not otherwise have been able to afford.

But as you probably guessed, some deals are too good to be true. The controversy started when Black Friday began sneaking into Thursday – what most of us refer to as Thanksgiving. For many, it’s a deal breaker and surprisingly, some retailers agree. For instance, REI has even created the hashtag #OptOutside, which is really a pretty clever way to both promote the holiday as well as their products. It will be interesting to see if the radical move will play out as well for their bottom line as it did for their PR.

Whatever your thoughts about shopping on Thanksgiving, we hope you have an excellent holiday. And remember, behavioral economists are watching! 

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