As we are carving into our turkey (or tofurkey if you don’t eat meat) and enjoying the company of our families and loved ones (dysfunctional as they all may be), many retail employees will have already have worked a full day. Many stores will have been open since 6:00 a.m. to offer great, budget-pleasing deals to hardy shoppers.  This raises the question: why?

There are two challenges that face retailers. First, how do you squeeze out more shopping time between the Friday after thanksgiving and Christmas morning? Second, how do you top last year’s deals?  According to many sources, about 20 percent of the retail industry’s sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas.  Retail sales are expected to rise by about 4 percent. The holiday season can make or break a retailer, so this is a very important period.

Image credit: Joe Heller

Image credit: Joe Heller – Click the image to view more cartoons

A little history: the Friday after thanksgiving was named “Black Friday” by Philadelphia merchants in the early ‘60s.  It was considered a negative as it was named to describe the downtown crowds and traffic on both Friday and Saturday.  Now, it’s considered to be the official start of the holiday shopping season.  As internet shopping became more commonplace, and online retailers inevitably participated in this bacchanalia of shopping, a new term was coined in 2005: “Cyber Monday.” The term refers to the Monday following Thanksgiving. Cyber retail sales have more than doubled from $600 million to just over$ 1.4 billion between 2005 and 2012.

Retailers have addressed the first challenge, in effect, by creating one more shopping day—Thanksgiving Day.  The logical question, then, is whether this current event is a one-off or whether it will become the norm.  Will we soon have “Purple Wednesday,” the day before Thanksgiving Day, as a shopping day?

Retailers try to address the second challenge by offering goods that have very high perceived value: flat screen TVs, laptops, computers, etc., at a very low price.  Although this is becoming harder and harder with each passing year, I suspect that retailers will figure it out.  I am hoping that one day soon I can buy a new car as a gift on “Green Tuesday” at 1:00 a.m. for very little money, assuming I am one of the first five people in the door.