Black Friday, Cyber Monday compete for sales
It is a bargain hunters dream, if one likes crowds, pushing, shoving and sometimes some verbal exchanges with other customers.
For those that have to make a profit off sales for the year, it is often the beginning of a month long frenzy to catch up with projected revenues.
For some it is the thrill of the hunt; for others it is a day they will never go shopping.
It is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, supposedly the busiest shopping day of the year.
But the 2010 Christmas shopping season could well be a different animal. The deep recession hurt holiday sales last year and this year it is anybody's guess about what may happen. Some say the recession is easing, but many others say it is getting worse.
The bargains may have already come and gone, profits may already be lost for the year and whether the crowds that flow into stores as early as 4 a.m. in the morning may not be as large as normal based on what a lot of people are saying.
"I think people are scared to spend money after what has happened in the last year" said one downtown Price merchant who asked to not to be identified. "Last year a lot of businesses were hurt by the poor shopping season. This year some could die if they don't get customers in the door."
It has been a fall of highs and lows in business circles. The stock market has made its steepest increase ever in the last six months, but now that it is staying a little above 10,000, it is still 4,000 points below what it was when it tanked to its low at 6,800 last March. Some people have made big gains by buying in then and reaping the profits now. Many have portfolios that have recovered pretty well, but still lie below what they once had. Others lost everything they had in the market. It is a mixed bag.
Unemployment is on the rise, still, yet it appears some segments of the economy are starting to recover. A "jobless recovery" as some government analysts put it may be a very real possibility.
With all the uncertainty, Black Friday could live up to its visual name. But what it is really named for is far from what its color denotes today.
The origin of Black Friday is up in the air when its history is examined. When Macy's Department store in New York began holding its annual Thanksgiving Day parade in the late 1920s people started to see the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as being the days to "shop." Then sales began to appear on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally a day that an ever more affluent society began to take off to make for a four day weekend. But then changes began in the 1960s that would make the day after Thanksgiving become something more than just another holiday shopping day.
So for over 40 years the day after Thanksgiving has been called Black Friday with no one really knowing exactly from where the term emanated. Its beginnings, ironic in terms of considering the economy this year, may have come from the term Black Tuesday which is what the day was called when the stock market crashed in 1929, starting the Great Depression. At that time the term black attached to something meant extreme chaos or stress.
On the other hand some say it is called Black Friday because, based on the way old business ledgers were marked with red for loss and black for profit, that was the day of the year when merchants began sales that would put them into the profitable column.
Thus in the mid-1960s the day became Black Friday because as retailers got ever more savvy about attracting buyers, they began the Christmas shopping season with ever more lucrative deals on merchandise on the day after Thanksgiving.
But that was in the far past, when it comes to innovation in shopping. The next step in the war of bargains between stores was to open ever earlier in the morning on that day, thus attempting to attract the biggest crowds, who would spend their money there first before they could go to a competitor.
Now a new change for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Not only now do pollsters measure Black Friday and what people plan on doing, they are now bookending the weekend with a day called Cyber Monday. Apparently after shopping the weekend sales physically, shoppers then turn to their computers to look for items or fill in holes which they haven't filled around the first of the next week.