How the Election Slowed Down Black Friday

Holidays craze would otherwise have been full-on weeks ago, trade org says

Everyone's heard by now how Black Friday campaigns by Walmart and other big-box retailers are encroaching on Thanksgiving this year, threatening kitchens with distracted cooks and therefore dinner tables with overcooked turkeys. But that's nothing. For instance, OfficeMax's so-called Black Friday initiative started online on Nov. 9, casting a shadow nearer Halloween than Turkey Day (Nov. 22).

Though retailers would have been inundating airwaves and email inboxes with Black Friday ads even earlier this year had it not been for the noisy presidential politics that dominated October, says Kathy Gannis, media rep for the National Retail Federation.

"Retailers were trying to avoid the fray," Gannis said. "In the swing states, retailers were not going to throw up the expensive ad dollars in a month where we had a very heated presidential race. Because of that, it was actually a smaller collection of retailers promoting their Black Friday and holidays offers during October."

In a tough economy, national retailers are attempting to out-early each other for the all-important holidays shopping season. From Walmart to Target, big-box players are opening as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night to catch legions of eager holidays shoppers.

Meanwhile, the term "Black Friday" is becoming less about a particular shopping day and more about the several weeks leading up to Christmastime. The term actually originates from as early as 1961, signifying when retailers typically turned a profit—or were "in the black"—on the day after Thanksgiving after almost a full year of slower sales.

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