‘Tis the Season for Spending Money

Black Friday officially kicks off the holiday rush

Macy's Sale

Via Genista, flickr

By: Monica Cheng, Staff Writer 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the holidays are a time of giving. This winter season, in spite of recent economic woes, consumers across North America are feeling fairly generous. 

According to a RBC survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, the average Canadian will be spending $640 on holiday gifts, an increase from last year’s figure of $624. While the difference may not seem like much, it can be significant once aggregated. 

In comparison with their American counterparts however, Canadian consumers still lag behind in terms of holiday spending. The average American is expected to spend $831 on holiday gifts this season, compared to $710 last year. 

With Black Friday officially kicking off the holiday shopping season this weekend, retailers are scrambling to get their hands on a snippet of the action. In the U.S., Black Friday marks the single busiest day for retailers. The term is derived from the disruptive traffic which would occur on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving as overzealous shoppers swarm stores from opening to close for discount deals. 

While Black Friday has traditionally been an American phenomenon, Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of its presence. Many cross the border to take advantage of deals offered in the U.S. 

Last year, the National Retail Federation reported that 212 million shoppers took part in Black Friday sales, spending an estimated $45 billion, or roughly $365 per person. Analysts are optimistic that these figures will be even higher this year.

Given the skittishness of the economy, a strong showing by North American retailers may just be the cure for ailing world markets. Small wonder that many individuals consider it their patriotic duty to shop on Black Friday. For their part, retailers are more than happy to oblige this blind conviction. 

Beneath the enticing deals and glittering signs, there is perhaps a darker side to all this consumerism. To make the most of weekend sales, many retailers are opening as early as Thursday night, prompting complaints from employees that they have to cut short their own holiday meals in order to be at work by midnight or earlier.

Chaos and violence is also part of the annual tradition. As enticing as the deals may be, Black Friday does not always bring out the best in shoppers. In 2008, a 34-year-old WalMart employee was trampled to death when shoppers stormed the Long Island store at five in the morning as the man tried to hold them back.


Given the skittishness of the economy, a strong showing by North American retailers may just be the cure for ailing world markets


When WalMart security officials and the police attempted to clear the store, shoppers yelled out “I’ve been in line since yesterday morning” and went on shopping even after being told an employee was killed. Store brawls are also not uncommon as shoppers fight over the best bargain. 

In spite of these incidents, Black Friday remains an integral part of American culture, even spawning its own Occupy movement known as Occupy Best Buy. As Occupy protesters around the globe march against greed and materialism, Occupy Best Buy’s manifesto pointedly reminds us that “the best way to get the best deals on Black Friday is to camp out at Best Buy.”

It is a thought-provoking reflection of our time when camping out at Best Buy on Thanksgiving Day has somehow achieved a more eminent status than spending time with our families. When the frenzy of Black Friday dies away, and we sit back to enjoy the fruits of our ‘hard-earned’ gains, it is perhaps necessary to ask the question, what is the real meaning of the holidays?

ARB Team
Arbitrage Magazine
Business News with BITE.

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