Marketing Association Amsterdam · Trends

The bruises were so worth it: Black Friday Bargains

Already more than two weeks ago now, on the 27th of November, the Black Friday bonanza warmed the hearts of many deal-seaking and shop-loving Americans. Not at any other time in the year can you find this many bargains at this many retailers.

So, what is Black Friday and where did it come from? It actually finds its origins in the holiday that is always on the fourth Thursday of November: Thanksgiving. This American tradition has been around since 1621, when the Native Indians and Pilgrims burried the hatchet and celebrated the first harvest in the New World. In 1924, the first Macy’s Day Parade  turned the holiday from a family gathering to a marketing movement. The parade created such positive associations and left the department store at the top of the minds (see how this works in ‘Happy Turkey Day‘) of everyone who watched or heard of it, that the store’s sales spiked after day after the parade. Every since, the day after Thanksgiving has symbolically marked the start of the Christmas season, and thereby holiday shopping season. Others started participating and the reached sales volumes were immense. In the 60’s the day received its catchy name, based on the fact that accounting records black (profits) from red (losses).

Nowadays, the hype is unbelievable. People camp in the cold outside of Old Navy, post up with coffee and snacks in line for the best deals at Best Buy, and nap in fold-up chairs by JCPenney’s, waiting to storm the store. You can get incredible value for your money, with the steep discounts and free goodies. But you have to work for it, and you may get slapped in the process. The really serious retailers open their doors at 12Am (0:00 for us Europeans), and stay open until 5 or 6 the next day: a true shopper’s marathon.


Even though the price reductions on most of the items are not anywhere near the handful of doorbusters that attract the serious bargain hunters. The sheer gratification shoppers feel from getting that one amazing item, or getting the majority of their christmas shopping done in one night/day is monumental. The savings create a lot of customer satisfaction.

Now that e-commerce is a staple in our shopping culture, and incorporating the fact that some people are not up for the bustle of fighting for the last cashmere sweater at the Gap, a whopping 34% of Black Friday revenues came from mobile shopping. As such, Cyber Monday (the monday after Black Friday) is quickly becoming just as important as Black Friday. What would this online purchasing process do for the customer’s experience and resulting gratitude and satisfaction? Without having to brawl for your presents, can the consequent sense of happiness really be just as intense?

The funny things is, that the Christmas season starts on this particular day, because Thanksgiving is the last American holiday before Santa Claus comes to town. However, countries outside the States have jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon. In the past years, the concept has crossed the pond. It’s demand-creating, revenue-raising discounts attracted the attention of retailers here in Europe. Especially  in Great-Britain, the event has gained significant traction.

How long will it be until we can enjoy the wonders of free cameras with our €200 purchase, 50% off our new laptops and New Year’s Eve outfits for next-to-nothing, in the Netherlands, with the bruises to prove it?

Susanne ten Brink

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