Summary: It all started with “Black Friday” (though not how you thought…). More recently, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday were added to the mix. But making its debut this year is Mobile Thursday, a shopping holiday that starts before Thanksgiving even ends. Is this the year we’ve taken Thanksgiving weekend shopping too far or is this just the natural technological progression? Either way, if you plan to partake in any of these 2012 Christmas shopping sales, you need to know where the deals are, right?
Are you one of the crazy people planning to join the herd and do battle for discounts at some of the major retailers opening late Thursday night/early Friday morning? Yeah… me too. I’ve actually always avoided this ritual and done my shopping online for about the last 10 years, but I see some deals at Best Buy I want to take advantage of this year. That said, this is how I’m imagining things will most likely play out for me:
- I drive out to Williston
- See the nut-jobs who’ve been camping out for days in their tents and realize I’ll never get a ticket
- Turn around and drive back home
- Relieve stress by playing “shooting” PS3 video games. (Wait, “playing” means getting destroyed, mocked and taunted by 10 year-olds online, right?)
So, if you plan to score some Black Friday deals in Vermont, I hope you’re less of a pessimist than I am. If you’re still planning to head out, I hope the following guide will help… but first, a little history:
Where Does the Name Black Friday Come From?
Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus tracked down the surprisingly specific origins of the name “Black Friday” at around this time last year. Apparently the first record of the term being used in print comes from 1961:
Resulting traffic jams are an irksome problem to the police and, in Philadelphia, it became customary for officers to refer to the post-Thanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday.
It wasn’t until the 80s that retailers, no doubt uncomfortable with the pejorative connotations, began to spin the meaning and the incorrect understanding most of us now have about the Black Friday’s etymology was born:
According to Taylor-Blake, the story of businesses getting “back in the black” on Black Friday doesn’t start appearing until the 1980s. So the “back in the black” explanation was clearly a way to rebrand Black Friday with more positive connotations.
Read the whole article for unrelated, but centuries old, uses of the term “Black Friday” if you’re a trivia nerd and in to that sort of thing.
Black Friday in VT
- WCAX’s Judy Simpson went to the University Mall to find out what retailers there had in-store (pun intended) for Black Friday 2012 shoppers. Understanding the competition brought by increased online shopping and considering the expected 40k-50k shoppers in the week around the shopstraveganza, the University Mall plans to open at 12 midnight for the first time:
Over 56 of our 80 stores will be opening at 12 Midnight THIS FRIDAY, November 23rd.
Be sure to check out the savings
- Looking at the Burlington Town Center’s website, you wouldn’t think they had anything special going on for Black Friday. At least if you click over to their calendar you can see they are opening 4 hours early and staying open an hour late (6am-10pm). Then if you click through to the “Events” section you can find this item – a “spend $100 get a $10 gift card” promo for Black Friday shoppers. One would assume that a lot of the shops on the Church Street Marketplace would be offering specials too.
- Berlin Mall will also be opening early – 7AM
- As you know, Williston has become a shopping hub for Chittenden County over the last decade or so, and this will undoubtedly be one of the best places for holiday sales. I already mentioned Best Buy, but as you know, just on the Maple Tree Place side of 2A there’s also Old Navy, Staples and Dick’s Sporting Goods to name a few. Of course on the other side of 2A you’ve got doorbuster deals at Black Friday staples like Walmart and Toys R’ Us, and you can be sure other retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond and Marshalls will be offering deep discounts as well. For their part, Home Depot is already advertising “Get Black Friday Prices Now (While Supplies Last)” on their home page.
- Others? Please feel free to post your hours and specials in the comments below if you’re a retailer I haven’t included in the list above. I’ll try to update this post with any information readers can provide – local/small VT businesses especially.
Small Business Saturday in VT
Of course many Vermonters often prefer to shy away from the big box national retailers, opting instead to support local businesses. And since 2010, the day after Black Friday has been designated as a day specifically to support small businesses and given the name Small Business Saturday.
For what it’s worth, Small Business Saturday isn’t strictly a Green Mountain State initiative – it’s actually nationwide and started by American Express – but it’s no secret that Vermont in particular is crawling with localvores and people who make an effort to shop at local retailers. (Side note: there should be a word for “local shopper”, because “localvore” only covers those who eat “local food”) Knowing how Vermonters crave the opportunity to “buy local”, it’s unsurprising that the Burlington Free Press, VTDigger, WCAX and Vermont Business Magazine, among others, have all written pieces about the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday this year.
Spread local cheer and enrich your holiday experience by investing in the Vermont 50/50 Challenge. Support your community by doing at least half of your holiday gift buying with Vermont’s local retailers, artisans and craftspeople. Many of Vermont’s 23 downtowns celebrate the season with organized events and promotions that save you money plus help you have a jolly good time uncovering one-of-a-kind treasures
There’s also a sign-up form, but it’s unclear what you actually get by signing up because it says “A Gift to You! Enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card redeemable in both Montpelier and Middlebury!” in one place but “Enter to win special shopping offers in Vermont’s downtowns.” in another?
Unfortunately there are simply too many small businesses for me to mention without some crowdsourcing and I’d hate to leave anyone out, so again I’ll just ask that any retailers out there reading this, please post your hours and promos in the comments below and I’ll update this post as that info comes in. I can say that the Church Street Marketplace does have a dedicated event page for Small Business Saturday which lists a lot of retailer promos, so that’s a start! But what about others that aren’t part of the Marketplace? Again, please submit via comments below.
Cyber Monday, a term just coined in 2005, is what we now call the Monday after Thanksgiving when online retailers are said to offer their best deals. It’s essentially a made up shopping holiday to extend the “Black Friday” weekend shop-fest another day. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s simply the fact and all of that being said, this is probably the day I’ll wind up purchasing many of my gifts. No traffic, no crowded stores, no screeching kids (and their germs!), no hassle – just deals. CBS News has a sneak peak at what some of the nation’s major retailers will be offering on their websites on Cyber Monday 2012.
Here’s where I think we might have jumped the shark – Mobile Thursday…. Really? Last I checked it was called THANKSGIVING! Watching millennials with their incessant dinner texting on normal evenings isn’t enough? Now we’re expected to tolerate them shopping on their phones and tablets during Thanksgiving dinner? Ugh. Oh well, what are you gonna do? BTW, if you’re shopping for me, I love tech but please avoid tablets even though they’re supposed to be hot this year – I just bought myself the Nexus 10 last week! (Also, watch the screen when you pass the taters!)
Really I suspect (and hope) “Mobile Thursday” shopping will at least take place after dinner, but either way, you can’t blame online retailers when you look at the numbers. Check out this info graphic to the right (click to enlarge) from Digitas, the firm responsible for coining the term Mobile Thursday in this Boston Globe piece. Coincidentally, Digitas just happens to be getting a lot of mileage out of what was clearly in no way a marketing tactic to get some free press. (Yes, I like to lay my sarcasm on like I like my gravy – thick and all over just about everything).
Hopefully the last tangent…. Something weird about Digitas, the company that came up with “Mobile Thursday” – they don’t even have a mobile site!!! Or at least it doesn’t have one that’s working. In fact you can’t even pull up their site on a smartphone. Given that their site is in Flash I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had gotten some sort of Flash related error message on my iPhone, but instead I got the weird error you see in the screenshot below, as did one of our developers on his Droid phone:
…. But I digress.
(*UPDATE* – I wrote about the Digitas mobile website the afternoon of 11/20, but the mobile site was working by late that evening… but it seemed to be down again as of 11/21, and I just figured out why. Last night I was on my home WiFi network, but at work I’m just using my Verizon Wireless 3G. After several tests, including getting on our office WiFi and seeing the site come up fine, I think it’s clear that the issue is connecting via mobile carrier. There is a mobile site but it will ONLY work if you’re on a WiFi connection.)
2012 Christmas Shopping in VT
At any rate, it looks like you’ll have a lot of options for finding great deals this year regardless of which day you decide to do your shopping and regardless of whether you do it online or in person. I’d recommend a balanced approach – a little of this, a little of that – to avoid any unnecessary headaches, be sure you get something for everyone on your list and offer some support for local businesses. Whatever you do, just don’t go overboard and spend beyond your means. Fox 44 has some quick tips on staying within your budget.
Until next week, have a great holiday weekend everyone and stay safe out there shoppers! And I leave you with what will always be my favorite “Black Friday”, take it away Rebecca
Vermont Retailers Offering Small Business Saturday and Black Friday Deals
Play it Again Sports – South Burlington, VT
Eric at Play it Again Sports (Dorset Street) just tweeted this announcement:
— Eric Small (@EricPIASVT) November 21, 2012
There’s also a call to action on their website to spend $100 on small biz Sat. and get a $10 gift card!
Buttered Noodles – Williston, VT
30% off Coupon good through Sat. Nov.24th – eepurl.com/rSPjr
— Buttered Noodles (@butteredbargain) November 21, 2012