Slow Death of the Black Friday Tradition?


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Social media feeds across the USA are sporting this meme. With a cry for solidarity from consumers across the U.S. to boycott Black Thursday, retailers have to make a choice whether to embrace or buck the trend of “Black Thursday.” I wonder, has Black Thursday officially replaced Black Friday? Are we witness to the slow death of a holiday tradition?

Times are changing. In 2012, Wal-Mart moved Black Friday discounts back across the midnight boundary, exploring the potential for Thanksgiving night shoppers. It worked, and other flagship stores followed suit, including Target and the struggling Kmart stores among others. Other retailers responded to the controversial trend by announcing they would honor their employee’s holiday and stay closed.

Costco, Nordstrom, Barnes and Noble, and Patagonia hold the line on not opening for Thanksgiving. If you are curious who is open and who is closed, you can read this article on It appears that the same arguments between retailers exist. GameStop, a video game chain states the anti-Black Thursday platform eloquently:

“At GameStop we often use the phrase, ‘protect the family’ in reference to our business. A large part of what that means to us is to not open any of our GameStop, SimplyMac, Spring Mobile or Cricket Wireless U.S. locations on Thanksgiving Day out of respect for our store associates and their families and friends. We believe it’s the right decision not only for our employees, but also for our customers. Enjoy this time with your loved ones and we’ll see you on Black Friday.”

When you consider how much longer the list is of stores that are open on Thanksgiving, however, it appears these stores might be the holdouts, and losing the battle of keeping Black Friday on Friday.

Black Friday is a term that emerged in the 1970s and early 80s, representing the day retailers began to turn a profit for the year, or “being in the black.” For many people, the event of Black Friday became the kickoff to their holiday tradition. Together with other like-minded family and friends, shoppers arrive to line up outside their favorite retailer in the wee hours of the morning, bundled against the elements, and still feeling stuffed from the previous day’s feast. This tradition has become a hallmark of American Culture; much like Boxing Day is in the UK.

Last year I examined how the trend of offering deep discounts on merchandise moving from the traditional day after Thanksgiving to actual Thanksgiving was harming the Customers. Employees giving up the national holiday spent with family and friends to report to work are not going to be as enthusiastic about delivering an experience that a retailer has carefully designed for their Customers.

According to Scott Robinson, Senior Director, Loyalty Design & Solutions of Bond Brand Loyalty, the atmosphere around Black Friday as a social event has changed as well. In a recent study, Robinson reveals two important statistics regarding the decline of making an occasion out of holiday shopping:

  • Almost 60% of Americans do not see holiday shopping as time to bond or connect with friends or family by making an event of the shopping experience.
  • 65% are not more likely to think of holiday shopping as a bonding experience vs. a few years ago.

The adage says that the one thing you can count on is change. Clearly, the long-held holiday tradition of Black Friday has changed. Depending on your point of view, it can be for better or worse.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of Building a Great Customer Experience from my book, which explains that an important philosophy is, “Great Customer Experiences are enabled by inspirational leadership, an empowering culture and empathetic people who are happy and fulfilled.” I wonder if this migration from Black Friday to Black Thursday can sustain that environment for employees, and ultimately the Customers who shop there.

Will you shop on Black Thursday? I am interested to hear why or why not in the comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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