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Black Friday not the shopping event it once was

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: People walk past a shopfront on Oxford Street advertising 'Black Friday' discounts on November 28, 2014 in London, England. Originating in the USA as a sales day that following the Thanksgiving holiday, 'Black Friday' is becoming an increasingly popular shopping day in the UK. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

The Holiday shopping season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving. Known as "Black Friday," it takes its name from the day retailers were so overwhelmed with sales their budget lines were "in the black."

Over the past several years, however, due to increased convenience and availability of online shopping, Black Friday lines and the rush to be first at the door have waned significantly. Fortune Magazine notes people are foregoing waiting in line in the early mornings leading to smaller crowds when the doors actually open:

The popularity of Black Friday has been on the wane over the past couple of years as more stores open earlier—even on Thanksgiving—and online retailers offer Black Friday-type deals year-round.

“It used to be very busy but for the past two years the mornings are not very crazy,” said Gina Reynolds, a 39-year old housewife, shopping at a Macy's store in the Water Tower Place Mall in Chicago.

This is good news for shoppers who like the visceral experience of browsing aisles and actually handling the merchandise before they buy it. And for retailers who have invested in tech and have a solid online presence, the waning Black Friday crowds might be compensated for with sales via the web. Kohls, for example, just set a single-day online sales company record on Thanksgiving Day. Also from Fortune Magazine:

In the last year, Kohl’s has updated its shopping app, launched a mobile payment app, improved its in-store service for online orders, and shipped from more stores. Though the retailer was later than some competitors to this game, the result was a strong start to the Thanksgiving weekend, in which retailers get 15% of their holiday season sales.

What this all means is that retailers, as they try to compete with chains like Amazon.com that sell retail exclusively online, would do well to invest in their online business development, even at the expense of their physical stores. How the change in the marketplace affects the debate over free trade will surely become a topic as the new Republican administration begins work in 2017.

One last thing…
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