The official Black Friday tallies are in. On the negative side (for retailers and the economy), shoppers spent less than expected; yet on the plus side (in terms of safety and for the sake of humanity), there were fewer shopping-related casualties than there have been in the past.
Every holiday season, it seems like the same story: Chaotic, violent scenes at shopping malls pop up during the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend as reliably as overhyped deals from retailers. Sure enough, brawls and assaults were reported soon after the stores launched Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night. Even so, for the most part, Black Friday 2013 was fairly subdued—in some cases, shoppers used words like “quiet” and “relaxed” to describe the scene.
“People are even nice to each other,” said one woman who was out shopping with her 10-year-old daughter early on Friday morning at the Town Center at Boca Raton, Fla., according to the Sun Sentinel. “It seems quiet,” she said. “This is beautiful. People are even nice to each other.”
Another consumer, quoted at a mall in Fort Lauderale, said that Black Friday seemed “like a regular shopping day.” Likewise, “Shoppers in the D.C. region were surprised at how calm retail outlets were on Black Friday,” the Washington Post noted.
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One explanation for why Black Friday wasn’t quite as crazed as it’s been in the past is that, thanks to the expansion of stores opening on Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals starting a week or more early, the usual Black Friday rush was dispersed over time. “The earlier start absolutely has helped,” one shopper at the Arundel Mills in Maryland told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s much more relaxed.”
Another big reason why Black Friday was more relaxed (dare we say pleasant?) at malls this year is that more consumers turned online to do their shopping. According to the National Retail Federation, American shoppers spent an average of $407.02 from Thursday through Sunday, down from $423.55 for the same period in 2012. At the same time, online spending is increasing. NRF data indicates that 43.7% of the average consumer’s shopping dollars were devoted to e-retail over the past weekend, compared to 40.7% a year ago. ComScore reported that e-commerce spending for Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose 21% and 15%, respectively, compared to 2012, while brick-and-mortar sales have been flat or on the decline.
Shopping on Black Friday 2013 wasn’t just nicer than it’s been in the past; it also appears to have been safer. The website Black FridayDeathCount.com, which tracks deaths and injuries related to the day, states that one death and 15 injuries can be credited to the wild shopping day.
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The lone death attributed to Black Friday 2013 did not take place at a mall, store, or retail center. It didn’t come as a result of a shopper stampede or a violent dispute in a store aisle or mall parking lot. Instead, the tragedy occurred due to a car accident, apparently when a teenage driver in North Carolina fell asleep at the wheel after shopping with friends early on the morning of Black Friday.