Friday, November 28, 2008

"Black Friday" Not So Dark After All

No matter how far down the toilet the economy goes, the American people will get up at 5am to find it.

Left: Black Friday at the King of Prussia Mall

Those of us with jobs, stocks, savings or investment accounts (this just about covers everyone) will be waiting with baited breath until 9:01am when the stock market opens on Monday. If this picture is any indication, we can relax.

As she has over the past several years, Poker Chick went to the second-largest mall in the United States to check out the state of American consumerism and report back to her readers. If a picture can tell a thousand words, this one could be an article all on its own. However, that would be a boring post, so Poker Chick will elaborate. Yay for you.

Just to give you an idea of how important this is, last year Black Friday represented 10.1% of all holiday sales. Indeed Poker Chick has observed this phenomenon at the same mall on the same day at the same time. And she can honestly say she's never seen it this crowded.

This was surprising. We expected fewer shoppers this year. Several stores resorted to the desperate measure of declaring "early" Black Friday this year. So theoretically those shoppers had already bought their gifts. Also, the news was reporting as much as 19% declines in pre-holiday sales. And of course, most of us have been assuming people would spend less this year, spend less time shopping, or just avoid the stores entirely. After all, the day after Thanksgiving shouldn't have to revolve around spending money to be enjoyable or productive. Right?

Wrong. Seems Americans are a wee bit reluctant to give up one of their favorite pastimes. And just for a little credibility here, Poker Chick is not the only one who noticed. CNN reported a "robust start" to Black Friday today. Media outlets in Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and other states were reporting huge crowds. In Valley Stream, NY, shoppers turned Black Friday into a contact sport, stampeding a local Wal-Mart and and killing an employee in the process. And finally, many of us forgot that unpredictable variable: the non-native shopper. Foreigners were out in droves taking advantage of the sales. Some flew all the way from Australia (No, not the movie, stupid).

Maybe the great bargains succeeded in getting people to shop after all. Many stores apparently decided the standby phrase "ONE DAY BLOWOUT SALE!" wasn't persuasive enough, and put out the most exaggerated descriptors they could think of to attract customers.

Right: Old Navy screams savings, in case you missed it.

So, let's say it worked. Will the volume of shoppers make up for the revenue loss from all this discounting? Who knows. We'll all find out when we read the news tomorrow. In the meantime, PC predicts the hemmorhaging of the market will slow down. Well, at least temporarily. This will buy us some time to review our purchases and think up as many synonyms as we can for "inflation".

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Poker Chick is a writer, mother, and avid shopper from New York.

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