Once upon a time (throughout my twenties) in a faraway land (Ohio and Kentucky), I managed a slew of retail stores. For a dozen years I traversed retail’s murky waters. Fresh out of high school, I began my career as a bushy-tailed sales rep at age eighteen. A few years later I was promoted to sales manager. Then store manager. Eventually I climbed the rungs to regional manager and, finally, director. At my pinnacle, I managed the operations for 150 brick-and-mortar stores from my downtown corner office.
Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about the retail business during my tenure. Most notably, I grasped the importance of the holiday-shopping season. On a good year, my stores would reap as much as 40% of their annual revenue in the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. 40%! That’s manufactured demand at its best (worst). Completely unnatural. Steroidic.
Because the stakes were so high (our profitability literally depended on the holiday season), we started planning for Black Friday (the precipice of the chaotic holiday shopping season), and its proceeding weeks, many months in advance. We met weekly, devising plans for doorbuster sales and special deals and once-a-year offers—anything to herd bovine-like customers through the door.
But, of course, those so-called deals weren’t designed for your benefit. We weren’t strategizing hoping to find ways to save you money: to assist the cost-conscious single mom, to help the nuclear family create a more memorable Christmas. No, no, no. Rather, we scoured our plans for every possible way to help—help you to part with your money, that is. The sale got you in the door, but the deal was not a deal at all.
Truth be told, the Black Friday deals aren’t actually that good. Sure, they’re designed to look appealing in the newspaper’s FSI (free standing insert), but the flip side of that coin is that the deals are designed to get you to act on impulse. Retailers lure you in with a limited-time offer and coerce you into purchasing shit you don’t need by creating false scarcity.
You needn’t succumb to the pressure, though. If it’s worth buying on Friday, it’s likely worth buying in January, too. So you don’t need 40 reasons to avoid shopping on Black Friday. You need only one: you can have a much more meaningful holiday without ever extracting the plastic from your wallet.
Spend some time with the people you love this Friday: Share a meal. Find a Christmas tree. Enjoy a carriage ride. Go ice skating. Donate your time to a food bank. Dance under the bright downtown lights. Play in the snow (or in the sand). Or just relax and enjoy the holiday season. Simply be together, no purchase necessary.