In 10 Years Will People Ask: What is Black Friday?

It is now a few weeks before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and once again retailers are battling to gain the upper hand as the Christmas selling season gets is about to get into full swing. To do so, it has now become a custom for retailers to introduce non-traditional ideas in order to strengthen their holiday sales. For example, since the early 1900s, retailers have been using the Friday after Thanksgiving, dubbed in the 1960s as Black Friday, as the holiday shopping kickoff date. A few years ago retailers looked at this day and felt they could obtain an advantage by moving back the opening time, such as moving it back from 6:00 am to 4:00 am. Then last year things really changed as the idea that Black Friday actually starts on a Friday was shattered as nearly every major retailer opened on Thanksgiving evening.

Now the idea of what Black Friday really means is likely changing again. The perception of most shoppers who venture out on Black Friday is that it is a day when retailers offer tremendous bargains to those who stand in line for hours prior to a store opening its doors. Once open, shoppers often run to locate the great deals. These bargain sales would, in some well publicized cases, lead to physical conflict between shoppers looking for a great deal.

The reason these shoppers fought for the products comes down to the simple economic concept of high demand for low supply with a time constraint thrown in just to make shoppers even more motivated to purchase. Retailers view these products as significant loss leaders and because of this they have little intention of upping the supply beyond what is needed to attract initial customer attention. Instead, they hope customers, who could not get the product they stood in line to buy, will instead purchase something else that would be profitable to the retailer.

Now in 2014 things are changing again. According to this Time story, retail king, Walmart, not only says Black Friday now starts on Thursday, but they now say it is a shopping day that lasts five days! During these five days, customers will still obtain products for the same low price they would receive if they were first in line when stores open on Thanksgiving night.

The obvious question is whether competitors will match this move. If they do (and we think they will), we again see the idea of Black Friday becoming blurred and possibly on the road to becoming irrelevant.