"The economic savings, feeling good about yourself having found a good deal, being a shrewd consumer," she said, all add up to one key factor. Plus, because so many stores offer Black Friday sales, it's easier to find discounts without having to look as hard as you might during the rest of the year.
But, Dr. Erdem said, another reason Black Friday remains so popular is tradition.
"It still has its appeal because of this ritualistic aspect," she said. "It's like going to a big big baseball game or Super Bowl as an American family."
[See how one family spent their Black Friday last year.]
Consider that the National Retail Federation surveyed 7,516 consumers about their shopping plans this year, and 26 percent of those who planned to shop on Black Friday said it was because of tradition. An additional 23 percent said they would shop because it's just something to do. (As far as we know, nobody was asked whether they're shopping just to get away from family members.)
Of course Black Friday is just the start of things. If retailers do not start discounting before Thanksgiving – and most likely – they are certainly using the holiday shopping season to push merchandise at every turn. The biggest discounts tend to come on "Super Saturday" – the last Saturday before Christmas, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail analysis firm.
But Black Friday does matter. Consumers surveyed by the retail federation said they planned to shop more on Black Friday than on any other day of the Thanksgiving weekend.
And Black Friday maintains cultural cache, especially for "new Americans," said Mr. Johnson, as recent immigrants, are more likely to take part. "That's how you learn to be an American consumer, by showing up and shopping on Black Friday."
– Zach Wichter
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