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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: This isn't your parents' Black Friday

Ben and Jerry's opened a new location at Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC
An empty Southpoint Mall sits in Durham on Nov. 20, 2017.

It was Friday, the morning after Thanksgiving. To soothe my stomach and combat the burnout of entertaining extended family, I planned to rot my brain on TikTok and chug water to the white noise of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade reruns for a few hours. 

Typically, I’d pick up a book to pass the time or go on a hike in the mountains that border my mom’s hometown, but the next two weeks of school were certain to be life-threatening, so give me a break. 

Imagine my disappointment when I opened TikTok to find no hilarious videos of grown men dueling over flat-screen TVs or nine-year-olds trampling the elderly for a discounted tablet. Having never participated in Black Friday myself (everyday is Black Friday to me — I have a shopping problem), I relied on the content of others to satisfy my craving of seeing evolution take a few steps back while malls become war zones. 

The only video even remotely related to Black Friday that came across my feed saw a Target shopper removing a sign that read “Black Friday Deals” to reveal the previous price of the same item. My jaw dropped when both of the tags priced the 75-inch Samsung TV at $649.99

Another video exposed the fact that some companies just inflate former price points to create the illusion of a real discount on Black Friday. 

Call me naive, but I wasn’t aware that these were common sins in the retail world, until the comments of these videos echoed less-than-shocked sentiments. I’d complain about the lack of integrity, but in a country where capitalism is second nature to even kids upcharging at lemonade stands, I know better. 

But, something about this marketing scheme felt particularly sinister this year, as many consumers have been squeezed by persistent inflation and high interest rates. While inflation rates have eased significantly, prices increases are still becoming a greater burden on consumer wallets and leaving less room for their discretionary spending. According to Reuters, holiday spending is expected to rise at the slowest pace in five years. 

A struggling economy may not be the only thing to blame for a lackluster Black Friday. 

When the title was first used in relation to retail shopping in the 1950s, it signified one day out of the year when customers would storm retailers in overwhelming and unruly crowds in search of extraordinary discounts. Now, the national holiday has morphed into a weeks-long marathon. 

First, there was the addition of Cyber Monday that stretched the sales over the weekend. Then, airlines, conceited as they are, deemed the next day “Traveling Tuesday,” where they offered deals on flights.

Finally, Black Friday promotions started being announced and even held in October and early November. As estimated by Adobe Analytics, consumers have spent 5 percent more online in the first 20 days of November than they did in the same period last year. Guilty!

A day lauded for bargains so good that people physically fight for them is bound to lose its urgency and excitement when the bargain can be had weeks before, from the comfort of one’s bed. In their race to our credit cards, retailers have done their best to kill the distinctiveness of the day after Thanksgiving. 

Despite my observations, the National Retail Federation estimated that a record 130.7 million Americans would participate in Black Friday this year, in stores and online. On average, they were projected to spend $875, tacking on an additional $42 when compared to last year's spending.

On top of that, Adobe Analytics estimated that by 6:30 p.m. on Black Friday, consumers had already spent $7.3 billion online, marking a 7.4% increase from 2022.

So, regardless of the havoc wrought by inflation and the potential transformation of Black Friday into a month-long affair, it appears the holiday’s notorious financial performance still proved strong. To all this I say, bring back the brawls!

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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