November 19, 2012 12:00AM
One of the persons you won’t find shopping in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving is Eric Harris, author, with Barry Babin of Louisiana State University, of “CB4,” a marketing textbook on consumer behavior. Harris, chairman of the Department of Management and Marketing in Pittsburg State University’s Kelce College of Business, doesn’t have a high opinion of the way after-Thanksgiving shopping has evolved.
“Madness probably is the best term for Black Friday,” Harris said. “In my book, I refer to it as Black and Blue Friday.”
Harris is concerned with Black Friday shopping incidents in recent years that have ranged from pushing and shoving to serious violence and armed robbery.
“My concern is we’ve come to a point that people are willing to do anything to get a bargain,” Harris said.
The irony, Harris said, is that the drastic price cutting that retailers must do in order to get shoppers out earlier each year may not be helping their bottom line.
“Last year sales were up, but stores were not profiting because the discounts were so deep,” Harris said.
Shoppers are willing to give up holiday time with family, camp out in parking lots and battle other bargain hunters for some very basic reasons, according to Harris. Consumers, he said, are motivated by utilitarian concerns (the need or desire to get something at the best possible price), as well as hedonic ones (because it is fun). The latter may explain much of the excitement around Black Friday.
“Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd,” Harris said.
Harris will be watching this year’s Black Friday shopping with no small amount of academic interest to see whether some early rumblings of dissatisfaction with Black Friday shopping actually turn into a serious movement to curtail the annual event or have any effect on consumer behavior. He noted news stories of unhappy employees who are being forced to give up Thanksgiving with families and others who say they plan to disrupt shopping on Thanksgiving evening.
His guess is that Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales will bring out shoppers in big numbers.
“Most of the analysts expect sales to increase,” Harris said.
He just won’t be one of shoppers contributing to that increase.