By Dalit Zagorin’12
Like most people’s Black Friday experience this year, mine started on Thursday. With 2011 drawing criticisms of Black Friday starting at midnight on Thanksgiving, stores opened even earlier this year. According to a retail analyst at the NPD group, retailers are now commercializing Thanksgiving, giving the consumer an opportunity to shop instead of watching 12 hours of football. Not being a huge football fan myself, I took this chance to experience my first Black Friday. After a delicious Thanksgiving meal at home, my three international friends and I decided to venture into unchartered waters and experience the typical American “Black Friday.” We arrived at a Target Superstore one hour before opening, only to witness a line so long, you’d think they were giving away free iPads or something.
My friends and I weren’t there because we had something in mind to purchase; we were just going to see what we liked and go from there. However, once the spectacle of this event hit me, I realized I needed a strategy – a game plan, if you will. I recruited the troops and told them to go straight to the TVs because I was going to buy one, gosh darn it. Waiting anxiously in line, seconds and minutes ticked away until the 9 o’clock hour was upon us. “This is it!” I told my friends, as if we were about to go into battle, “It’s GO time.” We approached the sliding doors with our game faces on, ready to take on the world, or at least the discount hungry shoppers surrounding us.
Once all the initial madness subsided, it dawned on me that this was all hype. Lo and behold, there were dozens of TVs still available, but of course all the bath towels were gone within seconds. After realizing the Samsung TV was too small, I decided not to buy it, much to the dismay of my loyal warrior friends. However, I found two board games at $7 each. With sore legs, a pounding headache, and slight claustrophobia, I walked to the line to check out, only to see a checkout line so long, it was winding around 10 aisles. At this point we were so exhausted, no one wanted to wait in line to buy a few board games and a pair of slippers. So, we walked out with nothing. But we did not leave empty handed after all, we gained a valuable lesson: marketing works.
What attracted us to Target weren’t our needs of the items on sale, but the phenomenon and novelty of the whole experience. Stores like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Sears spend big bucks targeting consumers via social media, digital and print ads, gift card deals, and limited time discounts. These sales are not necessarily once in a lifetime, but the stores make it seem that way. The magic of Black Friday makes even unwanted items seem attractive – did I really need to buy a Monopoly and Scrabble? No, but at 7 bucks each, who could resist? Furthermore, urgency sells. Black Friday works because in the back of every customers mind, there is a ticking clock. 40% off ends at noon! Sale ends at midnight! There’s definitely something about a limited time discount that makes you feel like you really need that new TV, or at least a new set of bath towels.