The mighty American marketing machine known as Christmas put on a brave front this weekend. Stores across the country opened up earlier than ever – some as early as 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning – and shoppers responded. Some consumers gave up their Thanksgiving Thursday altogether by using that day to stake their position on a sidewalk outside Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, or Sears. The rewards were high – those who were first in the store on Black Friday had the best shot at buying at deep, deep discounts. Flat screen HDTVs, which were otherwise priced at $1,000 minimum, were on sale for $300, but only on Black Friday and only to the earliest few into the store.
Christmas binge buying became institutionalized during the 1950s, when the Baby Boomers were growing up in families with four or more children, each of which was entitled to several toys (not counting what they got from their grandparents). Older children were encouraged to buy gifts for their siblings or their parents, and all of this gift buying behavior was reinforced with commercials that aired on the new, popular medium of television. Retailers and manufacturers discovered that the right type of advertising could generate enormous sales, especially if you could create enough consumer interest that the item became a Christmas “must have” blockbuster.
(Is Christmas Imploding? The People Voice. November 30, 2010.)