I don’t understand the term Black Friday. I know that it’s all about getting money out of people’s pockets, but why black?
The word most associated with slashed prices or bargains is red. Black is a word associated with positive financial balances or…death. People with positive balances usually get that way from saving and frugality, not shopping.
Perhaps, the name derives from the effect on retailer’s, brand owners’, and manufacturer’s balance sheets—in the black—and not the fact that consumers’ finances will resemble Santa Claus’s suit or Rudolf’s nose.
_ As a contrast to life in Pyongyang, I went shopping in Frankfurt. After-Christmas/end-of-season/desperate-to-generate-turnover sales are underway.
I prefer to buy things at a reduced price, and I tend to wear clothes and shoes for many years. Fashion is not a big issue, because I chose items with a long shelf-life, so to speak. I do not see a reason to pay full price, which is probably inflated. Retailers and marketers (very few, if any, manufacture anything these days, so the factory has already made its money) have such large mark-ups, that they make money on reduced prices.
Whereas shops (is there such a thing?) are empty in North Korea, western shoppers are faced with too much choice. From the hundreds—perhaps thousands—of jackets on offer, I found only one to meet my taste. Yes, I am difficult to please and have rather conservative tastes, but one would expect a better ratio of likes to dislikes. In the end, I selected something from an upscale brand with no branding beyond the label. I do not like to announce my purchases, do not need a brand to define my personality, and am not willing to lend my stature to boost a brand for which I have paid money.
_ It says: Sale.
Citizens of the United States will not understand the significance of this four-letter word, because one never goes very long or far without spotting one in the Land of the Mall and the Home of Credit Card Debt.
Germany, on the other hand, is different (duh!). In the past, clearance sales were permitted only two times per year: winter close-out, starting at the end of January, and summer close-out in July. There was an obscure clause permitting businesses to have a going-out-of-business sale, which was abused by Persian carpet sellers and other shady characters. These people would open a shop, run it for a few months, go out of business, and move down the street to a new location.
Anyways, that’s not the story here. Regulations regarding sales have been loosening slowly. They are still restricted to seasonal close-outs, but the times have become elastic, and more exceptions have been invented. Some stores start early with close-outs by writing to “valued” customers; advertising is not allowed. Many put price tags with red numbers in the window. Savvy shoppers know to look for these signs.
This year, sales have started to sprout up already weeks before Christmas, which is a long way from the traditional February window. Retailers must be in trouble and want to lure reluctant shoppers into spending money. Or they have been following the economic news and believe that times are tough.
Of course, I do not pity the high-end retailers. Even if they knock 40 to 50% off their exorbitant prices, they will still make money. Once again, the middle and the bottom of the retail pyramid could suffer, if shoppers stay home or cut back. Christmas should be a time of excess, and words, such as Sale or Save, should never be uttered or heard.
That said, I bought a present today, the price of which was marked down. Not unlike every other year, I had been watching for the first signs of creeping bargains...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.