One of my favorite days of the year is the day after Thanksgiving here in the US. Why? The madness that we know as Black Friday, is why. A few years ago, I went out to partake as a relative wanted me to join them. Up till then, Friday morning after Thanksgiving was for sleeping, not shopping. But once I showed up and saw the craziness of the morning deal dashing, I was hooked as a marketer. The psychological motives that drive otherwise normal people to get a look of premeditative murder in their eye over some heavily discounted item, draws my curiosity. What combination of factors drives people to act this way? That’s been my once a year quest to learn about.
This year I got up at 4:30am to hit the stores. It was pretty cold at 15F and the morning schedule had been mapped out. To really get the full impact you need to check the ads, I do it the old fashion way and just read the Thanksgiving day paper to see who has what. Now I was actually starting late, some stores had opened at midnight but I was not interested in those this year, this year, I was off to see the electronics.
I hit the highway and quickly made my way to Circuit City which had a line going around the store already. People had camped out all night and others were trying to cut in line to get in with the few deals available. As my theory was, the electronics stock even less of the hot deals than other types of stores and that theory seemed to hold true, I was in the store in the first 5 minutes and they had sold out of the on sale items already; and they certainly had way more people than the fire marshal would have liked, in the store.
From Circuit City I head to WalMart where security was standing guard quite nervously. It was a mad house! I headed to the electronics area and a fight had already broken out, which may account for the nervous security guards at the front. The crowd was a bit to lively for my taste, more likely to brawl at any moment, so I left to take a breakfast break.
Next was to OfficeMax which had about 50 people in line when I showed up 20 minutes before the official open time. As I walked to the door, they opened up early and I quickly got in line and went with the wave of people who were pouring into the store. I was carried on to the discounted sales table and grabbed a nicely priced 500 gig hard drive. It was like a feeding frenzy and arms went diving in for the deal like piranha going in for the kill. There was a kind of rush getting in there and grabbing a deal before the others could, I admit there was a kind of buzz one can feel to it as you actually get something you wanted.
Next I took a detour to World Market and won some free chocolate, Intense Dark 85% cacao, a bit harsh but it is suppose to be good for you. Then I headed to Target where it was pretty much the same, a mad rush for items, but by then it was 8am and the buzz was gone, so I headed home.
The stores do a great job on getting the word out but I have to say their strategy is way off, it doesn’t work anymore. Here is what they do, they put in the paper a great deal, like a $300 laptop that is actually decent, and then they only have 10 in stock or something really low like that. They expect those who don’t get the laptop will just buy something else, that’s not happening. There were more people out this year looking for deals, this is because the dollar is weak and things cost more so people want a good deal or they won’t play. So if they can’t get the deal they will just wait. This means, stores are going to have to offer more deals.
Most people I know are waiting for the deals, they expect deals and good deals and will wait instead of paying retail or 10% off, they want a really good deal, 50% or such. I suspect retailers are going to find people are not fooled by their Black Friday tricks and will wait for better deals.