The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally served as the unofficial kickoff to the holidays since the 1920s. The phrase "Black Friday" appeared in the 1960s, apparently a reference to the day of the year when merchants start making money for the year.
But Black Friday sales are slumping, suggesting that the day is no longer the economic and even cultural touchpoint of yore. The National Retail Federation estimates overall shopper traffic between Thanksgiving Day through Sunday fell 5.2 percent compared with the previous year. People also spent less, while overall sales were also down for the day.
The upshot? Fixating on a single day of the year no longer makes much sense given how people shop and how companies market their goods. Here are three reasons Black Friday is in the dumps.
Americans are still hurting. U.S. wages have been stagnant for decades, while since the Great Recession income growth has barely kept up with inflation. Between 1979 and 2013, about 80 percent of private-sector workers saw total inflation-adjusted wage gains of only 6.1 percent. Although there is more wealth, it is increasingly concentrated at the very top of the income ladder, and the rich can't consume enough to substantially lift retail sales and the broader economy.
Retailers have moved beyond Black Friday. Major retailers no longer put all their eggs in Black Friday. For example, Walmart (WMT) ran a full week of promotions before Black Friday. BestBuy (BBY) was in the swing of things well before Thanksgiving, as was Amazon (AMZN) and many others. Black Friday weekend has turned into at least a week of activity.
Consumers are over it. Signs suggest consumers are getting tired of Black Friday. From the long lines to the traffic backups and parking horrors, people have many reasons to skip the mall after Thanksgiving and shop online. The combination of broader promotions and e-commerce makes it easy to bypass the crowds and still land deals.
It doesn't help that Black Friday has become dangerous, with police being called out to manage mayhem as fights break out between people vying for that last Barbie doll. Who wants to take their lives into their hands to buy things they can't afford when they have other options?