Who Really Shops on Black Friday?

Did you watch the YouTube video of the Black Friday mob banging down the door of the local Tiffany’s at midnight, nearly rioting in their search for discounted Elsa Peretti Diamonds by the Yard drop earrings? Or did you hear the tale of the shopper who pulled a gun on another Fendi seeking bargain hunter at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, just like at a Sears in San Antonio this morning? 

Yeah, me neither.

Even as stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, opened ever earlier on the day of Thanksgiving itself, and even as the media alternately celebrates and scoffs at Black Friday, one point goes rarely mentioned:  Black Friday is not a shopping event for all of us. Instead, it attracts two main types of shoppers: the young and the economically desperate.

For the young, the appeal is obvious. Black Friday is pitched as an Event with a capital E, a tradition everyone should take part in. Moreover, it is 20somethings that have the stamina to handle the increasingly physical nature of Black Friday, where shoppers seemingly re-enact scenes from famous riots (Attention shoppers: the sacking of the Bastille will take place at 2 p.m. in aisle two!), all in an effort to snatch one of a limited supply of Toshiba 40 inch screen television sets for $179.99. Common sense says those of us with 40something backs and 60something hips are more likely to take a pass on such, er, events.

Yet the increasing number of economic losers our society is spewing out might well not have a choice about taking on the role of extras in soon-to-be hit YouTube videos of such store management induced customer scrums. According to Experian Hitwise, people who performed online searches related to the term “Black Friday” were less likely to have excellent or good credit than those who performed other online retail searches. And Gallup found that that non-whites were more likely to say they would attend a Black Friday sale than whites, something that should surprise no one. African Americans households saw their median income fall by twice as much as white households in the wake of the Great Recession. They need to be more cost-conscious.

Conversely, no one is offering up riot-inducing sales in the hallowed precincts that appeal to the wealthiest among us. Luxury shopping has been the breakout star of the post recession world. Even as Wal-Mart has lost customers to dollar stores, stores like Tiffany’s, Saks and Barney’s are less likely to need jaw dropping discounts to get their shoppers to part with the cash in their wallets. If such stores run Black Friday sales at all, they are likely to be small, limited, and with little in the way of artificially-induced shortages or stunt store openings on Thanksgiving Day or in the wee hours of Friday morning.

As a result, Black Friday has become yet another place where we can experience – or not experience, as the case may be – our nation’s increasing class divide.

Related on Forbes:

Comments are closed.