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How Black Friday Hijacked a Weekend

Church Street in Burlington Vermont in Winter

Each year, millions of individuals flood the stores on Thanksgiving night, and into what we now refer to as Black Friday, to score awesome deals. The phrase “Black Friday” has a long history that hasn’t always been focused on commerce, and it is now followed by two other shopping-related holidays that encourage people to buy in different ways. How have these holidays evolved and how should you navigate them? Here’s a little advice.


Black Friday—a brief history

Before Black Friday was a shopping holiday, it earned its name because of the mayhem that surrounded the day. With families traveling back home after Thanksgiving, heavy pedestrian traffic and auto incidents in downtown shopping areas prompted the police to coin the name Black Friday. Flash forward to the 1950s, which was when the name Black Friday was given some shopping-related connotation, people were calling in sick from work as to give themselves a long weekend, and those who played hooky got a jump start on the holiday shopping deals.

Retailers did not exactly appreciate the negative connotation of the word “Black” used to describe the Friday after Thanksgiving, as it was the start of holiday shopping and a joyous season for many. Today, Black Friday serves us as the start of our holiday seasons and the shopping that is associated with that, but it is more than that too. Black Friday is also when many businesses see the most profit. In accounting, red is used to indicate a negative bottom line. During Black Friday, business accountants see a “black” bottom line, which signifies profit. Some even see enough profit in this one weekend to sustain themselves for an entire year.


Enter Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday…

The evolution of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend now includes Small Business Saturday as well as Cyber Monday. Given that Vermont has an abundance of small businesses, it prompts the question as to which is more relevant.

Enterprise-grade Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals typically have one goal in mind: massive profits. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Consumers can gain access to items at much lower prices than they would normally pay.

Small Business Saturday takes a bit of a different approach. As small businesses are not able to store and pump out massive amounts of inventory like the huge retailers can, it does not mean they are out of the game. Often, smaller businesses end up giving away free items during this season. This is mainly to increase sales but also doubles as a way for the business to appreciate loyal customers without carrying excess inventory and incurring increased expenses.


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Small Business Saturday is about more than just the profits. It promotes awareness of the good local businesses bring to the community. From traditional retail businesses to service-based shops, small businesses partner with communities to create a day dedicated to local participation. The real difference between Small Business Saturday and Black Friday/Cyber Monday is that Saturday sales come from a need for awareness and the desire to strengthen relationships in the community.

Cyber Monday, over the past few years, has started to become busier than Black Friday, but not by much. It would make sense that more individuals are shopping online rather than dealing with the crowds, lines, and general craziness of Black Friday. If you can get the same deal without having to set foot in a store, why wouldn’t you? In the end, it all depends on how prepared you are to shop.


Which shopping holiday will gain you the best deals?

It is important to do your research before you shop. The doorbuster deals will typically exceed anything you can find online. Whether Friday or Monday, stores are willing to break even or possibly lose money on a product, just to get you to purchase something. With this noted, if you prefer online shopping, Monday may be your best shopping day, though the deals may not be quite as good on Cyber Monday. Black Friday tends to drive more actual revenue for sellers. If you are willing to stand in lines, deal with crowds, and fight for a limited amount of inventory to have instant gratification, then Black Friday is for you. Small Business Saturday may not get you the best deals, but you could walk away with some fun freebies and will definitely find unique gifts while providing much-needed support for your local business community.


If you do happen to find yourself out and shopping during this busy time, remember to bring your patience and do not get distracted by the hype that surrounds the season. Enjoy your time and live in the moment. Often, we rush through this busy season when we really should be focusing on those we cherish. At the end of the day, presence can be better than presents.


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Tyler Anderson

About Tyler Anderson

Tyler is an accountant at VSECU. He is responsible for tracking expenses and reconciling financial data, including depreciating expenses and corporate credit card management. He has a background in accounting from his undergrad at Castleton and is currently working through an MBA program at Norwich, while working full time at VSECU and at a local restaurant four nights of the week. When not at work, Tyler spends as much time as possible at his family’s camp on Joe’s pond, playing a bit of golf, and skiing in the winter months.
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