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Black Friday Protests: Then and Now

UCOMM takes a look at how protests have changed over the years on American’s favorite day to shop

Kate Hogan's picture
by Kate Hogan on
Nov 24, 2017

Black Friday, the day in which Americans gorge on retail discounts after gorging themselves on turkey. It has become something of a bizarre unofficial American holiday and a tradition in most households. Though it has been around for many years, how Black Friday works is changing from year to year.

The most popular theory for the original explanation for the term Black Friday is that it refers to stores making a large enough profit to take them from “being in the red“ to “in the black”. The sales would be so great that the company would no longer be struggling to make a profit.                     

Black Friday used to be people standing in long lines for hours before stores opened for their exclusive Black Friday deals. Stores opened earlier, usually somewhere around 6 am. But in the 2000s, hoping to increase sales, stores upped their game by opening even earlier, starting at 5 a.m. Some blame retailers like Wal-Mart and others for tempting greedy shoppers. They linked the frenzy of Black Friday shopping to a series of unfortunate and entirely preventable accidents and even deaths, like  Jdimytai Damour, who was trampled to death while trying to hold Wal-Mart’s doors closed in Valley Stream, Long Island. Since then, the Black Friday Death Count has reached a total of 10 deaths and 105 injuries as a result of the shopping day.

During the 2000’s, many people decided to protest Black Friday. Places like Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Northern New Jersey, Los Angeles, California, and Minnesota saw crowds of hundreds outside of different Wal-Mart doors, calling for better pay and scheduling practices. Many protests were large enough to draw a police presence. In 2013, UCOMM’s Kris LaGrange walked into a Wal-Mart on Black Friday and distributed thank you notes to employees who were working under these crazy conditions.  Unfortunately, the Black Friday Creep is making its way into Thanksgiving Day itself, with stores like J.C. Penny opening its doors at 2 pm Thursday afternoon.

Now, Black Friday has become more of a season. Amazon started rolling out its Black Friday deals on November 16th  but has been offering “countdown to Black Friday” deals since November 1st. Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Best Buy offered Black Friday deals in July. For the first time, it seems like more people are going to be reaching for their phones and laptops instead of their car keys. According to an October survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 59% of shoppers will be shopping online this season.

With consumers spreading out their holiday shopping throughout the week and more people shopping online, more companies have started to reassess whether opening stores on Thanksgiving makes any business sense. Stores like Ikea, PetSmart, and Pier 1 imports will not be opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. H&M will be closing all of the stores across the country for its third consecutive year in a row. P.C Richard’s also gave their employees off Thanksgiving. It seems like some stores are starting to put their employees before their bank accounts for the first time in a long time.

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