Black Friday: a consumer conspiracy?

Last Friday, thousands of merchants dropped their prices and released their latest deals, allowing consumers to flock to stores to find the best sales possible.

Black Friday has been known for decades as the day to find the greatest possible bargains on a variety of items, from clothing and makeup to sofas and laptops. People literally line up outside of shopping centres to get their hands on products before anyone else snatches them away.

It makes sense that retailers put up with the craze every year.

Shoppers crowded the stores on Black Friday. Source: BBC News

You may begin to wonder if this phenomenon is worth the hype, mess, and shopping brawls, or if it’s just a conspiracy created to rack in sales year after year. After all, studies have shown that in recent years, hundreds of products have dropped in price after the Black Friday weekend has passed. This means that the supposed deals that consumers believe they’re getting aren’t actually as great as they might be a few weeks later.

Dana Mattioli, from The Wall Street Journal, has conducted a study about this annual shopping craze. In her report titled, “The Myth of the Black Friday Deal”, Mattioli reports that an abundance of products are priced below Black Friday levels at other times, specifically later in the Christmas season.

In the weeks following Black Friday, stores such as Zara have been known to re-stock the items which they sold out of, dropping their sale prices until the next big sales event: Boxing Day. By then, they hope to get rid of old stock to bring in new inventory, which they will sell at full price in the New Year.

A consumer goods group in the UK called Which? also investigated this event. They tracked the prices of 35 popular items including tech, home, and personal products. Their research showed that “60 per cent of products could be bought for the same price or cheaper at other times of the year. For almost half the deals, the price was the same or even less in the December immediately after the Black Friday period.”

Despite this research, consumers continued to flock to Black Friday sales, particularly through online retailers. Adobe Digital Insights says American customers spent $5.03 billion online within 24 hours this year, setting an all-time record. This amount is almost 17 per cent higher than last year.

At this rate, one can only imagine how much higher next years sales will be, and how dependent consumers will be on the digital marketplace, even if they aren’t necessarily getting the best deals on Black Friday.

About the author  ⁄ Regan Katerenchuk

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