Having never experienced an American (or even a Canadian) Black Friday in person, I temporarily lost my mind and decided 2015 was my year. And it was quite the experience. Quite.
Aside from walking approximately 900 kilometres in about 20 different malls in a small Bavarian-inspired town called Frankenmuth, Michigan, my Black Friday experience actually spanned almost four days, from the Thursday (American Thanksgiving) to the Sunday. I honestly didn’t buy much, nor was I intending to, but I was there more to observe and photograph.
And my ultimate conclusion?
Black Friday is Over. Finite. Kaput.
Or, at least the traditional image you’ve likely conjured in your mind when reading the words “Black Friday”. The tableau of people shoving and punching their way into their local Walmarts is no longer the case; I was actually in a Walmart on Black Friday. And all I have to say about the experience was yes, there were a good amount of people in the store, but not to the extent where I got to practice my amateur wrestling moves. Everyone was actually really courteous, and there were extra staff on-hand with brightly coloured vests who were absolutely going out of their ways to help customers find items and check out quickly.
Customers are refusing to do business in the ways they don’t like to shop.
Doing Black Friday with others who have made into something of a tradition, I hear this wasn’t always the case. Even last year, Black Friday was almost twice as busy and infinitely more insane. This year, it appears, people stayed home or opted to shop online.
This article from re/code really sums up well what Black Friday has become: an online event met with muted enthusiasm. People are not only staying at home away from malls for reasons I can only guess to be crowd aversion and lack-luster deals, but they’re not even turning on their computers anymore: they’re shopping on their mobile devices.
The downside is that even though m-commerce is quickly gaining ground over traditional bricks-and-mortar retail and ecommerce avenues, it’s still kludgy. Technical failures like Neiman Marcus’ epic fail and customer experiences that aren’t inspiring potential m-commerce shoppers to actually buy what they’ve placed in their carts are just some of the reasons omni-channel retailers are failing to capture the online shopping crowd.
I can definitely see how Black Friday is being celebrated as ‘over’, ‘done’, and ‘on it’s way out’ by various media outlets: it’s exactly what I saw in store. In fact, I doubled-up on my shopping experience: not only was I in-store, but I ended up buying some of the things I really wanted online at the very same time (because, of course, it wasn’t in store).
The end of Black Friday as we’ve come to know it is yet another symptom of larger retail trends happening all over the world: it’s the shoppers who are changing the retail landscape by simply shopping they ways they want to shop, and refusing to do business in the ways they don’t like to shop.