Black Friday: the return of brick and mortar

Carly Robinson

The tradition of Black Friday has drastically transformed over the past decade. Formerly characterized by stores opening before sunrise followed by frantic customers pining for the best deal the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is now known to start at certain stores such as Khols, Walmart and JCPenney as early as several days before the busiest shopping day of the year. However, most noteworthy is the shift from in-store shopping to online.  

After filing for bankruptcy in Sept. of 2017, the household favorite Toys “R” Us is just one example of a company that made a definitive statement regarding the power of online shopping. A large number of brick and mortar businesses around the world continue to suffer every day as a result of the convenience and ease of e-commerce, with 10,000 stores expected to close by the end of 2018 according to Coresight Research, a retail and technology-focused consulting firm.

Clearly, it’s no secret that the world has turned to technology for everything from entertainment, to business, and, of course, to online shopping. Online shopping is a thriving market, and its sales of $2,489 trillion in 2018 make up almost 9% of total retail sales in the United States. This substantial figure may not come as a surprise to most in the midst of the Information Age, but what might is the fact that some niche small businesses, such as book stores and toy shops, have actually experienced an increase in profitability as technology use has grown.

Despite Ebooks capturing $3.2 billion of the market, and Amazon alone boasting 22.6% of the total book market, there’s something about the physical shopping experience that still entices shoppers of all generations.

Tulsa-based bookshop Magic City Books and local Norman toy store Kidoodles serve as important anchors in the argument supporting the value within brick and mortar businesses. Each establishment was flooded with eager customers the morning of Friday, Nov. 23, 2018.

“We are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, offering discounts as well as free gift wrapping. We are so busy on that day. We know that it’s convenient for our customers to shop online, but many do realize the value we offer in free gift wrapping and the personal service”, said Kidoodles owner Lin Copelin.

When asked if she was surprised by the popularity of Magic City Books after just one year in operation, the buyer for Magic City Books LeeAnna Weaver hardly flinched.

“Not at all. People are hungry for a ‘third place’, like the old TV show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. We want a place to go relax, feed our interests and meet people who share our interests. Little bookstores fill the bill”, Weaver said.

In an increasingly automated society, consumers are slowly but surely turning away from their screens, and toward the irreplaceable experience of human interaction.