Meet the Black Friday shoppers who see 'chaotic' shopping day as 'a tradition that brings people together'

Black Friday shoppers talk about why they love it. (Photo: Getty)
Black Friday shoppers talk about why they love it. (Photo: Getty)

When you hear the words "Black Friday," you may have visions of people lining up outside of stores for hours, parked in camper chairs and nestled under blankets in hopes of snagging the latest flat screen or must-have kids toy at record markdown prices.

Now, with so much of our shopping done online, and internet-specific shopping holidays like Cyber Monday and the Amazon-specific Prime Day to boot, Black Friday may seem like a less important be-all, end-all way of getting amazing deals.

"Black Friday sales have gone down due to people's greater comfort with using credit cards for online shopping and consumers' greater comfort with online shopping, in general," Priya Raghubir, a professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business, tells Yahoo Life. "There is also consumers' concerns with being in a crowded environment given COVID, as well as stores' responses to these trends by starting 'Black Friday' events earlier in the year."

She adds, "Electronics have always been a category with the deepest discounts to spark a consumer's interest, but with inflation and the increased cost of living, consumers may be rethinking discretionary expenses."

The pandemic has certainly influenced whether people want to shop in stores to score the best deals. According to a 2020 survey of 1,200 adults by Deloitte about Thanksgiving shopping trends, 57% of respondents planned avoiding in-store shopping altogether to avoid crowds, and 74% said they planned to shop online. Economic anxieties were also giving people pause on spending at all, with 44% of Thanksgiving shoppers delaying large purchases they would have otherwise made.

Despite all of these reasons for not wanting to line up in the wee hours of the morning (or even the night before) for discounted prices, there are still many people who love the in-person Black Friday tradition. For those who said they planned to shop in store, 73% said they were showing up to get the best deals and 46% reported enjoying the "ritual" of shopping with friends and family in-person. More than a quarter of respondents (27%) shared that the "excitement" of the day got them into stores.

Kate Landry, 48, a former high school teacher and homemaking blogger, says she started a Black Friday tradition near her then-home on Long Island when her kids were babies. She and a friend would meet at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night at the Tanger Outlets in Deer Park, N.Y., waiting for the clock to strike midnight. At the time, she tells Yahoo Life, it was a way for her to "walk around with my hands free — with nothing but a hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music, strolling leisurely."

"It was just what I needed at the time. It wasn't really about the sales or shopping at all," she says. "It's the people, the Christmas music, the smiles from strangers, the smell of cold night air, the feel of hot chocolate in my hands...You can't replicate that from online shopping. Getting a deal was an added bonus."

While Landry no longer keeps her Black Friday shopping tradition, AJ Silberman-Moffitt, a senior editor at Tandem, a digital marketing agency, says she still adores the tradition, as she has for the past 15 years with her good friend, Starr.

"Before the day, we make a plan of which malls we will be going to and the order in which we will visit them," she explains. "Typically, we go to malls that are 40 miles from our houses or closer. We live in South Florida and have gone as far north as Orlando to shop at Disney Springs on Black Friday – about 200 miles away!"

Her typical Black Friday, she says, is arriving at the mall in the morning, grabbing breakfast, shopping and then heading over to the second mall of the day. There, the pair will have lunch, shop, and hit a third mall for dinner and more stores. They also factor in at least one coffee break.

"For the past few years, we have also incorporated matching shirts into our routine," Silberman-Moffitt shares. This year, her shirt appropriately reads, "Eat, Shop, Coffee, Repeat," along with the hashtag #BlackFriday.

Mark Joseph, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and father of two from St. Louis, Mo., who runs parenting website Parenting Queries, says that his love of Black Friday began when his mother, who has since passed away, would take him as a kid to the shops early in the morning. He loves getting all the deals early at Walmart, and says his own children enjoy the experience, too. Though Black Friday can be a bit "chaotic," he says the whole family has a lot of fun.

"Last year I took my son for the first time and he loved it," Joseph says. "He was so excited that he couldn't sleep the night before. We got to the store when it opened, and he was just in awe of the people and the hustle and bustle. He got his favorite remote car and I got everything on my list. It was a great day. He had so much fun that now he always asks me when we can go shopping on Black Friday again."

Joseph, who says he plans on hitting some local stores with his kids this year, isn't interested in changing his family shopping tradition for online sales.

"With online shopping, you never know what you're going to get," he says. "The product could be completely different from what is advertised, and you would only realize it once it arrives at your doorstep. I prefer in-person shopping because I can make an informed decision based on seeing and touching the merchandise before buying anything. Additionally, Black Friday sales are a tradition that brings people together, and one which I don't plan on giving up any time soon."

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