Black Friday is today, the day after Thanksgiving, which was traditionally the day holiday shopping would begin. Black Friday used to be known as the day retailers net income would turn to black (turn a profit). However, I don’t know any retail business with a year round brick and mortar location that could be in the “red” for ten months out of the year, every year, and still survive. The term was also used, originally in Philadelphia, to describe the vehicle and pedestrian traffic that would occur on this day. Black Friday was the day we’d walk into a department store and first see the beautiful decorations and hear the Christmas music in the background. My how times have changed…
Christmas is being promoted earlier and earlier by retail each year. I still remember the days when the Liberty House trim-a-home department would open up on Black Friday. Liberty House was a chain of department stores in Hawaii and Guam which was eventually bought out by the department store giant, Macys. I used to love working on Black Friday at Liberty House, hearing the holiday music, seeing the shoppers leisurely browsing on their day off and wrapping gifts at the perfume bar for nervous boyfriends and husbands. Now Christmas displays are up as early as Halloween. I also remember the sales didn’t begin until the week before Christmas as retailers wanted to sell any excess inventory as the season came to an end. Black Friday is now synonymous with deep discounts, sales and crowds of people at big box retailers anxiously trying to score one of the “limited” quantities of deals. It’s as much about buying for yourself as it is buying for others. There is a ton of hype and chatter about deals, Black Friday is a representation of the society we’ve become year round. We want to consume more and on a frequent basis, therefore we demand lower prices.
I don’t enjoy Black Friday anymore; I generally stay far far away. This might seem odd, as I am MauiShopGirl. My moniker speaks to a love of shopping. But, there is much more meaning in that name, beyond a girl who loves to shop. I originally chose MauiShopGirl as my domain name in 2008. I paid for my domain on the heels of my leaving Prada, after ten years of working, the longest tenure at any job I’ve held. My departments got eliminated in a restructure and at that time financial controller jobs were plentiful so I decided to take a few month break before even thinking about applying for another job. During my much-needed time off, I was to start a blog, something I had wanted to do for some time. I chose MauiShopGirl as shopgirl is the term affectionately given to a young sales associate in retail and was also the title of a book I had loved written by Steve Martin about an older man who starts a relationship with a shopgirl at a high end department store (later made into a movie with the shopgirl played by Claire Danes). MauiShopGirl was a reflection of my love of working in the retail industry, which first began at the age of eighteen, when I was a shopgirl at Liberty House. At the time I was living in Honolulu but selected Maui, as it was the place I grew up. Turns out, I spent a few months cleaning up and organizing my home and the blog never got started. I held onto the parked domain until the summer of 2011, when MauiShopGirl finally made its debut with a post about graphic wallpaper in July.
I do love shopping but MauiShopGirl is less about getting deals and the concept of “shop til you drop” and more about the love of design, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, new retail concepts and the Maui lifestyle. I’ve changed in the past few years. I have shopped way too much in the past, using going to the mall as a leisure activity and escape. In 2008, if I had started the blog, it would have been entirely about fashion, handbags and shoes. My profiles would have been about large brands and well known international stores. I would have gone on and on about what I bought and what I wore. By the time summer of 2011 rolled around, I had changed. I try to not shop as much, I live in a small space and I now have a burgeoning love of home design. I’m less about a luxury handbag and more about the handmade item, a startup crafter or artist selling pieces made with love. I adore small businesses, beautiful food and a home which looks modern but comfortable and which reflects the quirky or different parts of its occupants’ personalities. I stuck with MauiShopGirl because it’s catchy and I already had a web presence with that handle. I did have some concerns the name would imply my blog would be entirely about shopping but I still felt it a good fit as my love of design and small businesses came from my start in the industry as a shopgirl. Shopgirl also speaks to the satisfaction I’ve always felt with connecting a shopper with an item that they love.
I hate shopping on Black Friday in any major retailer because I hate crowds, I’ve even been known to physically react to being in the middle of a crowd by feeling faint and anxious. I don’t like “competitive” shopping to get something before it’s gone. Women have gotten into verbal or physical altercations at the Waikele Coach outlet over a handbag on the sale table, something I really don’t need to see. I don’t like the practice of big box retailers offering a very limited amount of a big item at such a ridiculously low price, creating hysteria to be the first one in the door (didn’t we used to learn that bait and switch was wrong?) I don’t agree that Black Friday needs to be moved up earlier and earlier so that salespeople no longer get to enjoy their entire Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family. Knowing you have to go work in the late evening is not the same relaxing feeling as having the entire day off. I don’t buy large electronics for my family, I tend to stick with smaller thoughtful gifts and I don’t spend a fortune at Christmas. I don’t have any kids to buy for, so there are no “hot” items I’m trying to get my hands on. I don’t need or want a new TV or other tech at this time. I’m not a gamer so could care less about the price of Wii or Nintendo. I’d love a good camera but it’s not in my budget right now so I’m happy with my point and shoot for the time being. So, there really is no incentive for me to hit up a big box this weekend. As far as sales go? There will be sales the entire holiday season. You don’t need to shop during Black Friday to get a discount. From now until Christmas we will see markdowns and online coupon codes. That said I don’t look down on anyone who loves Black Friday. I have many friends who will buy electronics for themselves or their family at good prices, snap up the game their kids have been asking for and who look forward to hitting the sales with a good friend that day with their marked up sale flyers in hand. I say more power to ya and enjoy your day. It’s just not for me.
If I did venture out this weekend, I would focus on locally owned shops and boutiques who are offering reasonable discounts for their loyal shoppers and special events to celebrate the holiday season (refreshments, a special trunk show or a girls night out event goes a long way with me). I enjoy the intimate experience of shopping, admiring lovely things and hearing Christmas music in the background.