While broadcast news reports certainly helped hype Black Friday, most showed the negative side of the brick & mortar shopping experience, including the long lines, suspect discounts, and violent incidents.
A website, BlackFridayDeathCount.com, keeps track of Black Friday-related deaths and injuries with links to news articles detailing the incidents. For 2013, the site reports 15 injuries and one death.
Not surprisingly, e-tailers also slammed the in-store experience on their websites and in marketing.
In a press release released the day before Thanksgiving, Robin Domeniconi, chief marketing officer, Rue La La, the members-only shopping site, exclaimed, "The holidays are an opportunity to cherish time with friends and family, and our goal is to let gift-givers stay at home and enjoy it. You won't need to camp outside of a store on Thanksgiving Day to find great value this season."
"No matter which way you slice it, who really likes standing in line — especially on a holiday?" asserts Scott Ballantyne, CMO at backcountry.com, the outdoor gear e-tailer, in a release that came out the same day.
Accompanying a survey showing that 57 percent of Black Friday shoppers plan to do their buying online, Overstock.com chairman and CEO Patrick Byrne, in a statement earlier this month, said, "Online shopping allows consumers to make purchases comfortably from their home while avoiding the holiday rush, waiting in line, fighting traffic and suffering the weather."
Brick and mortar stores play up deals, and some point to the advantages of in-store help, but largely unheard are any other of the benefits of in-store shopping. Not mentioned are the generally smoother return processes, being able to touch and feel products, and the instant gratification from not needing to wait for products to arrive. In a blog entry, Blair Swedeen, SVP of strategy & business development, Placecast, the location marketer, spoke to "the interaction of the senses and shopping — smelling a new cologne, tasting the new holiday chai flavor, and feeling the cashmere sweater for your wife in your hand."
His blog entry addressed the "overhyped" battle of brick & mortar shopping vs. online, with over 90 percent of shopping this year still expected to come from physical stores. He doubts many categories — mentioned were apparel, shoes, beauty/fitness and groceries — will ever be dominated by online shopping.
Mr. Swedeen even contends "that physical rush we get when we save money" makes deal euphoria more fun at physical stores than online. "There's a reason why people line up at dawn (or earlier!) outside the doors on Black Friday — not just to get the newest Xbox, but also to get the best deals, and the rush of excitement from saving money."
Are the portrayals of in-store holidy shopping fair or unfair?