Tuesday, February 9, 2010

PRSSA Blog - Holiday Shopping

Whether it is human nature or American culture, it is safe to say that at one time or another people put effort into finding the best deal on a product or service they want. The most common time this happens is during the holiday shopping season. During the months of November and December, shoppers go outside their normal shopping routine to find the best deals on their Christmas gifts. Some aspects of the holiday shopping season have broke down into two major categories that have become a more modern phenomenon. These categories include Black Friday and Internet Cyber-Monday. The concept of holiday shopping has evolved over decades from local specialty shops into large retail stores. Despite these changes, one thing will remain constant; holiday shopping and Black Friday bargains are here to stay.

The unofficial, but traditional start of the Christmas shopping season is considered to be the day after Thanksgiving. In a more modern sense, this day is called Black Friday, in which shoppers from all around the nation head out before dawn to find deals that stores have to offer. The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red to being in the black. According to news media, Black Friday is considered to be the busiest retail shopping day of the year. In reality, it has only recently become the busiest retail shopping day. Before 2004, Black Friday fluctuated from second to tenth place in terms of both sales and customer traffic.

Electronics and popular toys are often the most popular items, which are usually discounted. Because of the vast crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media will often cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased items. Some of the most popular stores in which customers travel to are Wal-Mart, Macy’s, bargain outlets, and local malls. Traditionally, Black Friday sales were intended for those shopping for Christmas gifts, but for some particularly popular items, some people shop at these sales in order to get deep discounts on items they can then resell, typically online.

Having acknowledged that several people re-sell their purchases online, this gives a great opportunity to transition over to the new phenomena of Online-Cyber Monday. Many entrepreneurs and other distinguished companies have re-created the traditional Black Friday into a virtual world of online bargains. These websites and businesses not only allow the customers the benefits of discounted items, but the convenience of a comfortable, home shopping experience. At the official Cyber Monday site run by Shop.org, more than 600 retailers offer discounts as of 2009. A percentage of the proceeds of the site benefits the Ray M. Greenly Scholarship Fund, which gives scholarships to students wanting to better their education in e-commerce. Some of the most popular online deal sites include:

  • Overstock.com
  • Slickdeals.net
  • Woot.com
  • Dealnews.com
  • SmartBargains.com
  • Fatwallet.com

In rounding out the history of holiday shopping, it is easy to see how great of an impact it has on our culture and economy. Some people will go out of their way to find great deals on holiday shopping by directly going to the store during Black Friday, while some choose to modestly peruse the online world of Internet Cyber-Monday. Whatever path is chosen, it is almost certain that companies and stores will offer some type of discounted item sometime in the midst of all the holiday shopping season.

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