Southern Utah News Articles
Black Friday must be destroyed ... and resurrected in small towns
Two years ago, having just moved from the big city to the quiet, peaceful, small town of Kanab, I saw something I never would have expected. A small pharmacy, about the size of a checkout line in Wal-Mart, was having a Black Friday Sale. As I was still moving books and shelving in to the soon to be opened READ Cat Bookstore about a block down, I thought “this is hilarious, I should do that next year…“if they can have a Black Friday Sale with greeting cards and sunglasses, surely I can have one with books.”
A year had passed, and I quickly found out that I needed more than just books to survive. I had added T-shirts and postcards to my inventory, and when November came around, and the tourists (which make up 80 percent of my business) started disappearing, I decided, why not? This will be fun and hilarious. I made big, eye catching signs – SALE – 30% off – 40% off, 70% off, and so on … With just one very cheap ad in the classifieds and a mention on Facebook, I actually made great numbers.
The next day, on the spur of the moment, I crossed out “Black Friday” and scribed “Small Business Saturday” on my signs and made another quick mention on Facebook. That day was even better. Suddenly, it wasn’t funny anymore.
So many thoughts popped into my head – this should be a serious part of my business plan every year – locals need and deserve a big sale like this – but most of all: Why not turn something miserable into something fun?
Black Friday, the term given to the day after Thanksgiving where, rumor had it, most businesses first go “into the black” meaning they reach the point of profit for the year, was supposedly the busiest shopping day of the year. This was not true at the time it was first touted, but as the hype built up, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Through most of the 2000s, it got bigger every year, and then it got ugly. In bigger cities, there were riots, trampling, fights, and even fatalities, amid the chaos to get a low-grade television slightly cheaper than any other day of the year. That didn’t seem to stop anyone from going.
Each year, the big box stores were moving the open times earlier and earlier as people were lining up, and camping out for the latest toys and gadgets. One year, Target opened at midnight on Thanksgiving, which seemed cruel to ruin the traditionally family holiday of rest and relaxation. This year they are opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving….Best Buy at 5 p.m. Black Friday is ugly and must be destroyed!
There have been pushes lately by city council groups all across the country to promote “shopping small” and “shopping local,” and that is great. There are benefits to the community that come back to each citizen for shopping local. By keeping tax revenue in the town, and consumer money in local businesses, there is a ripple effect whereby money is circulated through sales tax back into the schools, through sales into more local jobs, better wages, etc. But that concept has always seemed too big and complicated a reason to really motivate people to shop local when prices and selection often seemed better elsewhere.
So, what if we gave everyone a huge sale – not just in one or two stores, but the whole town? What if Black Friday became a fun, small town event instead of a headache of heated tempers and pushing and shoving at 5 a.m.?
A full-blown advertising campaign then came to me. Black Friday Kanab – Shop Local – Sleep Late. Since Black Friday is already a known concept, let’s just take it away from the big box stores, and keep Small Business Saturday too! In Kanab, it’s going to start at 9 a.m. and no matter how popular it gets, there will never be any long lines or trampling.
As Daniel and Eva at T-Time have said, “we aren’t really in competition with each other. If you have more shops open, more people will walk around and see more of what they want and tell their friends.”
I agree. We are more in competition with St. George and online retailers than with each other. Just by having us all on the same website, there is more of a chance for cross promotion. Even if not every business collects local customer e-mails, just by each business owner sending an e-mail, Facebook message, Twitter post, etc. to his or her friends and family and asking them to forward it, we can get the message out pretty quickly in a small town like this, especially with everyone on the same website www.blackfridaykanab.com
The pharmacies and Duke’s Clothing have been having Black Friday Sales before I even opened shop, but this year, it will be a full-blown event. I’ve mostly gone to retailers, getting them to join in on the fun, but some local eateries are now getting in on it. You can start out by having breakfast at Parry Lodge or Jakey Leigh’s. Go shopping at Gifts of the West and The REaD Cat. Even some businesses who are normally 100 percent tourist destinations are joining in.
“I’m not usually open for Black Friday,” said Victor Sandonato of Denny’s Wigwam, “but I’ll try it. I want to support what you’re doing, and the local economy.” With Denny’s offering free coffee and ice cream and being right next door to The REaD Cat, I’m sure I’ll benefit, and hopefully he will too. There have been many “tourist” items at my store that I’ve sold to local customers. A Kanab T-shirt is a pretty nice gift for a relative who doesn’t get to live in this beautiful, unique town.
Local small business shopping will never take the lion’s share of Christmas spending. We do not have any mom and pop shops who can sell LED televisions or iPads. However, if we just took a small chunk out of the big box stores, it could keep us in business and circulate back through the community. We have clothing, books, puzzles, jewelry, cards and souvenirs for your out of town family, and more. Kanab does have a lot to offer. For everything else, there is always Cyber Monday.
But on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, there is absolutely no reason to wake up at 3 a.m., spend a lot of gas money, drive for two hours, and fight through a line of frustration, sweat, and flu carriers. Instead, shop local, sleep late, and most of all, spend your hard earned free time this Christmas season actually enjoying yourself.