The Black Friday hype:
Which this blog commented on
, has a fuller exposure at the New York Times: Media and Retailers Both Built Black Friday
It’s convenient to point a crooked finger ... at some light coverage of some harmless family fun. Except the coverage is not so much trite as deeply cynical, an attempt to indoctrinate consumers into believing that they are what they buy and that they should be serious enough about it to leave the family at home.
Media and retail outfits are economic peas in a pod. Part of the reason that the Thanksgiving newspaper and local morning television show are stuffed with soft features about shopping frenzies is that they are stuffed in return with ads from retailers. Yes, Black Friday is a big day for retailers — stores did as much as 13 percent of their holiday business this last weekend — but it is also a huge day for newspapers and television.
In partnership with retail advertising clients, the news media have worked steadily and systematically to turn Black Friday into a broad cultural event. A decade ago, it was barely in the top 10 shopping days of the year. But once retailers hit on the formula of offering one or two very-low-priced items as loss leaders, media groups began to cover the post-Thanksgiving outing as a kind of consumer sporting event.
It ends with:
[Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm] said that in his 32 years interviewing consumers in malls during the holiday season, he had never heard what he did this year. “People really have no idea what they want,” he said.
What was the "hot item" for 2008? The hot toy? There didn't appear to be one this time. E.g. Tickle-me-Elmo
A worker trampled to death when customers stormed a Wal-Mart for bargains on the day after Thanksgiving had no experience in crowd control and was placed at the entrance because of his hulking frame ...
... the worker, Jdimytai Damour, was 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds, making the trampling all the more stunning. He was killed when a crowd estimated at 2,000 strong broke down the electronic doors in frantic pursuit of bargains on big-screen TVs, clothing and other items.
I hope that Wal-Mart are somehow held liable for Damour's death. They are responsible for encouraging the behavior that led to his trampling and nothing will change unless they are given an economic incentive (via lawsuit) to devote adequate resources to manage the crowds.