A record number of shoppers packed big-box stores during this year’s Black Friday to snatch up bargains and discounts at retailers around the nation. Even some (un)lucky Marquette students got in on the mega-sale action.
Derrick Chengery, a senior in the College of Communication, worked his fifth straight Black Friday at a hometown Target in Pittsburgh. The electronics team member said this year was the worst he can recall in his five years’ experience.
“It was complete pandemonium,” Chengery said. “I was pushed to the ground at one point. There are crazy people everywhere on Black Friday.”
National statistics shed some light on Chengery’s claims. The National Retail Federation found a record 226 million people shopped over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, spurred on by midnight openings and highly discounted products designed to get customers in the door. The number is up from 212 million last year.
The average amount of money spent by those customers also rose from last year. In 2011, the average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 a year ago.
As tradition has it, Black Friday as we know it today earned its name during the 1960s, dubbed by Philadelphia papers as the day retailers finally begin operating at a profit, or “in the black.”
Marquette economics professor John Davis said, despite the record numbers of shoppers and money spent, it remains to be seen if retailers like Target, Best Buy and RadioShack will make it into the black.
“On the firm side, door-buster sales will lose money to get people in the door,” Davis said. “On the household side, it remains a question whether people will continue to spend at an increased rate for the season or if it is front loaded.”
Davis also said consumer confidence has recently not been particularly positive, another factor that will affect the upcoming weeks’ sales.
“We’ll see in the upcoming weeks whether we have a Black Friday or more of just a gray Friday,” he said.
Chengery said Target opened at midnight following Thanksgiving, a tactic that brought even more dedicated shoppers into the store.
“It’s sad that stores keep opening earlier and earlier,” he said. “It’s making people think about their jobs at a time that should be about family on Thanksgiving.”
Around the country, Black Friday brought out the worst in some people.
In Los Angeles, a woman was arrested for pepper spraying a crowd in an attempt to get to a crate of Xboxes released late Thanksgiving night. Ten people suffered from injuries from the pepper spray and ten more suffered minor cuts or bruises.
In West Virginia, a 61-year-old man suffering from heart problems collapsed and was ignored and stepped over by shoppers according to witnesses. The man’s wife said six nurses eventually attempted CPR on the man, who died later in the hospital.
Multiple bomb threats were made to Walmart stores in Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas.
Justinne Certeza, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences, said she and her sister were among the midnight shoppers in their hometown of Bartlett, Ill.
“It was funny to see the people out late at night running around to grab TVs and other stuff,” Certeza said.
She said she didn’t see any violence or stampedes, but it was mostly a rush of people “getting to the deals.”