I love reading about business trends, because I'm given so many interpretations of what's going on. Take Black Friday shopping, for example. Either it's dead (Business Insider), or it's dying (Business Insider), or it's irrelevant (Fortune.com), or it's as strong as ever (International Council of Shopping Centers). I can take my pick! It's almost as good as a box of truffles.
I know a guy who actually looks forward to Black Friday at the malls. He was out this year and said the crowds seemed as big as ever, yet he had no trouble getting where and what he wanted. I have great respect for his judgment in other areas, but in his shopping habits I think he's a little teched in the head, as people used to say.
To me, the whole Black Friday phenomenon has never made sense, and I'm not just referring to the idea of driving miles in the dark to join hordes of bargain-crazed shoppers jostling for a discounted TV. (Call me crazy, but that holds no appeal.) I also don't buy the idea that there are any real bargains out there that can't easily be found at other, less jam-packed times, or even better, in the comfort of my own home.
As the head of a company that manufactures and sells its own products, I've never been big on Black Friday offers either, though cooler heads tell me they're necessary and I accept that. From my perspective they don't make sense because, first of all, our products are purchased for their quality and durability. They're made to last for years. They're not purchased because they look tempting at the moment or they provide a rush of endorphins, or can help a shopper check a name off their gift list -- though of course they can.
But I'm also against Black Friday deals because any time you sell something at a discount, you're essentially stealing from yourself -- if, that is, your "regular prices" are an accurate reflection of value, and ours are. So we'll offer Black Friday specials and package deals because people expect them, but we generally hold the line at discounts. Any product that's offered at 40%, 50% or 60% off is a product that's probably not worth more than that discounted price any day of the year.
Maybe my skepticism about discounts and the whole frenzied shopping phenomenon can be traced to my old man. He always tried to convince us kids that we should observe Christmas on December 28. By then, he argued, prices on everything would have been slashed. Imagine the piles of discounted gifts there'd be under the tree! What's three more days to wait? His argument made perfect sense, but of course we didn't buy it. Even if being sticklers for tradition meant a reduced haul, Christmas had to be on the 25th, we declared, and went to bed on the 24th secure in the knowledge there'd be tangerine-filled stockings in the morning.
Persuading kids to postpone Christmas three days may be a tough sell, but extending Black Friday three days, to Cyber Monday and beyond, has been child's play, relatively speaking. This past Monday was the biggest ever for online sales, and the offers haven't stopped. My mall-shopping friend said the whole weekend is now a blur. Maybe he was buying frames in Michael's Thursday night, but it could just as easily have been Saturday. So Black Friday as a day might be dead, but Black Friday as a weeks-long state of mind -- like Carnaval in Brazil -- is alive and getting stronger every year. All those competing news stories are accurate, after all.
If Dad had only reframed his argument so that Christmas started on schedule and went on for days, I think we might have bought it.