AT RANDOM: Happy Black Friday

Graeme Corbett touches on the U.S. shopping holiday that has moved north

If you looked really hard, you might have noticed an actual newspaper in amongst the 30-plus flyers in Wednesday’s edition of The Morning Star.

The lead-up to today’s Black Friday retail shopping event has ramped up big-time in the past few years and it is now one of the biggest, if not the biggest, days for our publication in terms of flyer inserts. Normally, with a 44-page paper like Wednesday’s, we wouldn’t need to go with two sections, but we did this week because there was no other way to fit all the flyers in.

I did a double-take when I picked up the paper at the front entrance when I walked into the office Wednesday morning. I grabbed the one off the top of the pile, not realizing it may have been the biggest 44-page product in newspaper history.

That thick bundle of newsprint might be irksome to some, but I am in no position to judge as that is what pays my wages, and it is what allows us to do what we do best – report community news, sports, lifestyle and entertainment issues and events to you, the reader.

For free, I might add.

And if you think having a few extra flyers arrive on your doorstep is a nuisance, try being the person that has to deliver them. Some of our carriers had to cover their routes twice Wednesday, delivering one section at a time while trudging through heavy snow.

Scanning some of the flyers, it actually looks like there are some decent deals to be had today. Most major retailers in the country have jumped on board the Black Friday bandwagon.

I wrote a business feature for the tab that was also squeezed in Wednesday’s paper (we use it as a way to offer some extra ad space for some of the smaller local retailers that don’t have the means to create their own flyers). In talking to several business owners, it appears their distributors really do make an effort to offer some deals.

And it isn’t just TVs and electronics anymore. Clothing, furniture, bookstores and even car dealers are getting in on the act.

Alas, I won’t be partaking in the shopping bonanza this year as we just forked over the payment for our trip to Mexico in the New Year (a first-world problem, to be sure). So aside from buying a few gifts for our little one, we won’t be going retail crazy this Christmas. We have even opted out of the traditional family secret Santa draw so we have a few extra pesos to spend abroad.

I was somewhat cynical when the Black Friday frenzy started gaining traction in Canada several years ago. My view was that it was a made-up event we copied from the States.

Black Friday falls the day after American Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November. That much we do know. After that, its origins are a little murky.

Depending on what source you refer to on the almighty Interweb, Black Friday can refer to: company sales going from red (losses) to black (profit); the collapse of the U.S. gold market in 1869; or employees calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving to have a four-day weekend.

There seems to be a little more consensus around the notion that it started in Philadelphia in the 1960s, and referred to the crowds and traffic resulting from the annual Army-Navy football game. How that got turned into a bastion for consumerism, I have no idea.

Looking at this event from a retailer’s perspective, if you saw all these Canadians heading south of the border to do their holiday shopping – keep in mind the dollar was stronger when this trend started – wouldn’t you want to do something to keep their dollars local?

I can’t say I blame them. Whether you open up your wallet, that’s up to you.


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