We’ve just got used to the idea of Kiwi and Aussie kids celebrating Halloween. Now, another American tradition is taking over a day on our calendar: Black Friday.
For those who haven’t been caught up in the annual celebration – if that’s the right word – of conspicuous consumption, it’s the day between the United States’ unofficial birthday and the following weekend.
Thanksgiving is marked on the fourth Thursday in November. Because many Americans travel home to visit their families, it becomes a four-day holiday.
Since 1932, “Black Friday” has been regarded as the beginning of the US Christmas shopping season. Most major retailers open very early and offer promotional sales.
With the rise of online shopping, it’s becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
In New Zealand, major retail chains like Harvey Norman, The Warehouse, Noel Leeming and Apple NZ are offering heavily discounted stock in store and online.
The Warehouse has been running Red Friday, its version of Black Friday, for four years, and is offering discounts of up to several hundred dollars on TVs, camping gear and household appliances. Tents, iPhones, trampolines and swimming pools are also on sale.
Harvey Norman has advertised a Sony 65″ HD Smart 3D TV discounted to $NZ1948, a saving of $NZ507. Noel Leeming has tablets, headphones and other items discounted on its online store.
Retail NZ public affairs general manager Greg Harford said Black Friday and the following Monday, “Cyber Monday”, gave consumers a chance to get a head start on Christmas shopping.
“We’re seeing in the last couple of years a number of retailers have been embracing the opportunity to have a sale in the pre-Christmas period, and that has manifested itself in some great deals for consumers coming out at this time of year.
“It is certainly becoming more popular and I think consumers are increasingly looking for those opportunities to hit the shops at the end of November and this is a good opportunity to do it.”
Air New Zealand is offering thousands of domestic and international specials, with domestic fares from as little as $19 one-way and international fares from as little as $99 one-way.
In Australia, the fall in the Aussie dollar against US currency has helped boost interest from American shoppers in buying from Aussie online retailers.
“In the past three years it has really become a big event on the shopping calendar,” Beginning Boutique owner Sarah Timmerman said. “If stores aren’t doing it they’re missing out on traffic.
“While we get a lot of US shoppers, it is also popular among Australian customers as well and if you don’t offer discounts they’ll shop on US stores instead.”
Brick-and-mortar malls like Brisbane’s Indooroopilly Shopping Centre have launched their own “A Christmas Shopping Affair” to ensure shoppers stay in store rather than drift to overseas online retailers.
In the UK, Amazon and Tesco kicked things off ahead of schedule by starting their sales on Monday. While some shoppers continue to fight for the best deals in store, many retailers expect most Black Friday business to be done online.
But the real action still happens in the US. Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, though there are signs this is changing.
In 2014, spending fell for the first time since the 2008 recession. $US50.9 billion was spent during the 4-day weekend, down 11% from the previous year.
“Christmas creep” has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday, as many retailers spread their promotions over November and December rather than concentrate them on a single day or weekend.
There have been reports of violence occurring between shoppers on Black Friday. Since 2006, there have been seven reported deaths and 98 injuries throughout the US.
It is common for prospective shoppers to camp out over the Thanksgiving holiday in an effort to secure a place in front of the line and a better chance at getting desired items.