Black Friday retail & social irrelevancy: Opinion

Black Friday is evolving to retail irrelevance as retail “Black Friday” transcended from 8 AM Friday opening to trespass on the sacred, spiritual traditions of Thanksgiving to becoming an over-promoted problem with as many negatives as positives.

In the U.S., Black Friday had traditionally been an exciting day for families to go to parks, museums, zoos, movies, high school football and soccer playoff games, as well as to go to the major department stores for a few hours for some pre-Christmas and Hanukkah shopping.

As America “super-sized” its shopping malls, retail power centers and split retail from 7 to 14 sectors, retailers wanted to put Consumers on “shopping steroids’ for Black Friday as desperation discounting, promotion, as well as mayhem became sadly pervasive in the “wars between the stores.”

Failed Retail “Maginot Lines” Of Merchandising

Like French Minister of War, Andre Maginot, World War II fixed fortification Maginot Line that functionary failed, the hubris of the last 25 years of 20th Century retail expansion excess is unwinding with record retail bankruptcies the first two decades of this 21st Century, which is putting unprecedented pressure on Black Friday, and now “Black Friday week & month----as under capitalized retail chains struggle for survival.

Analogous to the unplanned obsolescence of the pre WWII Maginot Line, U.S. retail chains built 400% more selling square footage than what shopper demand dictated. This has put both more pressure on Black Friday, as well as transitioned “Black Friday” sales from July to now.

In his seminal book, Going For Broke, John Rothchild brilliantly chronicled how cheap money and unlimited CapEx and M&A financially fueled the blowups and bankruptcy explosions of dozen of big chains in seriatim, like the final spectacular scene in James Cagney’s famous movie White Heat as he said, while blowing himself up on a huge globe shaped gas storage tank,“Made it Ma, Top of the World !”

Black Friday “Wars In The Stores” Do No Produce Overall Positive Results

As American retail chains contract their respective store counts and less capable chains file for bankruptcy and/or liquidation, there are too many stores chasing too few shoppers spending in stores with Black Friday deals for weeks and months prior to Black Friday. As shopper spending on Black Friday is now approximately equal to Cyber Monday, both are eclipsed by the most important shopper spending the 10 days before Christmas when 40% of Holiday shopper purchasing occurs, with the most important days on the weekend before Christmas.

Legendary spiritual, philanthropy, civic, and community leaders were great merchants, epitomized by George Draper Dayton--who founded Dayton Hudson Target (DHC/TGT)—and John Wanamaker, who respected Thanksgiving Day as a spiritual day of thanks for all families of all shoppers, workers, vendors, and public safety officials, and Messrs. Dayton and Wanamaker had the same retail respect for all on Black Friday with limited hours and specially merchandised windows and stores during daylight hours only.

As Target, Walmart, et al., trespassed on the sanctity of Thanksgiving and family safety, I was horrified to see seniors, children, and workers trampled in Valley Stream, NY, (bordering Brooklyn/Queens) where a heroic security guard was trampled to death. All in violation of my late great father, Burt Flickinger Jr.’s, NYState law that all retailers had to have all advertised items in stock for all shopper for a full week, or offer a rain check with a guarantee that the shopper would get the same product at the lowest price.

In my professional view, Walmart, Target, et al., have the Phil Knight-Nike “inspired” limited-demand-to-danger-&-even death started by Nike reportedly severely deliberately limiting new Air Jordan supply to the point of children getting shot to death for sneakers and Walmart, Target, et al., shoppers facing severe injuries & too many deaths of LTO (Limited Time Only), i.e. less than one hour for “Door Buster” big screen TV sales with Air Jordan-like hopelessly limited availability Walmart, Target, et al., stores (and factory worker Women & Children reportedly burned to death, while locked inside factory fires in prior years to produce Black Friday & Holiday deals.)

“Roman Empires Of Retail” Are Collapsing & Being Replaced By E-Retail

As the “retail ice age” accelerates for under capitalized retailers with a record  number of major retail chain bankruptcies and store closings, the biggest proverbial “Roman Empires of Retailing” that dominated in the 20th Century are collapsing into bankruptcy and/or liquidation in the 21st Century. The failing retailers are all creating more mayhem by being open both Thanksgiving Day and throughout Black Friday. This is a “Don Quixote-esque” attempt to try not to financially fail when the 2018 books are closed on New Year’s Day.

Many of these major chains have a significant percent of their sales replace by e-retail, or online shopping.  Sears, which could have been the Amazon/AMZN of today had it not been run by a very bad, bungling Wall St. bean counter, Eddie Lambert, whose was commercially clueless regarding how shopping evolved on Main St. In my professional view, Sears had been unbreakable between its online potential and being brought back to greatness with “The Softer Side of Sears” & transformational strategic success in the 1990s by Arthur C. Martinez (Saks), Bob Mettler (Macy’s), Meg Rist & Liz Williams and Young & Rubicam’s Peter Georgescu and Dave Buirski. Lambert in his Yale-like Skull & Bones style broke the unbreakable in Sears and has the company now tragically “boxed up for the ‘bone yard.’”


Black Friday is evolving to unplanned obsolescence as the Darwinian Destruction as the U.S. retail stores and selling square footage shrinks from 400% over stored to less than 200% over stored. This is illustrated by the students in my Cornell University class on The History & Future Of Retailing, Marketing & Merchandising. With students from the Americas, Eur-Asia, Africa, and the all countries and populated continents, 50% of the students do 100% of their shopping online and have not been to a retail shopping mall, shopping center or store this year. Nearly half of their online shopping is done on Amazon.

The great retail and philanthropically and spiritually business inspired leader George Draper Dayton gave 5% of his Dayton-Hudson-(Target) Corporation profits to key charities every year.

While we’re blessed on Thanksgiving for what Mr. Dayton and others did, it should be a big “Black-Eye” embarrassment for the wealthiest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Mr. Bezos penuriously pledged a de minimus $2 Billion of his massive wealth, while shamelessly, in my professional view, proverbially “extorting” $10+ Billion in tax-payer funded government giveaways (with no voting) to lay waste to the rest of retail----that paid all their taxes throughout their commercial history, as well as collected all their retail sales taxes----while Mr. Bezos has stripped mined the American people Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and every day to wreck their Main St. businesses, workers, employers & community supporters, something not important to Mr. Bezos, America’s biggest corporate “carpetbagger” since President Abraham Lincoln established our Thanksgiving Day 155 years ago in 1863, and after his tragic assassination, carpet bagging started as horrible, commercial cancer that has accelerated in destroying the cornerstones to what  has been so important to America’s soul.

Burt Prentice Flickinger III is Managing Director at Strategic Resource Group, a Consumer Sector consulting firm, which works worldwide with the leading retail CEOs, Wall St. firms, Ad Agencies, universities, FTC, law firms on antitrust and M&A, and Cornell Women’s Ice Hockey team, & Advisory Council at Cornell University for the programs in Entrepreneurship; Fashion & Fiber Innovation; Business; and College Of Agriculture & Life Sciences, and WVBR 93.5 FM