Black Friday marketers push for greater spending

Black Friday, the huge shopping day after American Thanksgiving, used to be a single day. But as marketers try to squeeze as much money out of Black Friday as possible, it now extends from Thursday to Sunday. And some marketers are going to even greater lengths.

Deals now start days before Black Friday

Customers shop at a Target store in California over the Thanksgiving weekend. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

Black Friday, the huge shopping day after American Thanksgiving, used to be a single day. But as marketers try to squeeze as much money out of Black Friday as possible, it now extends from Thursday to Sunday. And some marketers are going to even greater lengths.

One strategy U.S. retailers use to claim a larger share of Black Friday spending is to lock in some purchase intentions before their competitors’ sales even start.

Typically, the way they do this is by getting consumers to subscribe to email or Twitter alerts that give advance notice of Black Friday sale items a couple of days early.

Last year, Kohl’s went further than simply giving advance notice of Black Friday sale items. E-alert subscribers could actually purchase those items starting two full days before Thanksgiving.

Hardcore shoppers may have no problem lining up early, but less experienced younger consumers are sometimes less enthusiastic about joining the early-morning throngs.

So last year, Best Buy invited shoppers to post Vine videos of their time in line, and the best videos were retweeted for all the world to see.

Another thing that keeps some shoppers from lining up early is the risk that all the best items will be sold out before they get into the store. So in 2013, Wal-Mart came up with this solution.

With Wal-Mart’s one-hour in-stock guarantee on select products, as long as you got into the store during the first hour, you were guaranteed to find those products.

While most Black Friday retailers encourage shoppers not just to buy huge quantities, but also to buy early, in 2011 one retailer urged shoppers not to buy at all.

Counterintuitively, the apparent honesty of the ad helped push Patagonia sales one third higher.

So last Black Friday, the company sought to repeat its success by releasing a film that encouraged customers to repair their clothes rather than buying new. As expected, the ploy once again increased sales.

But there’s one Black Friday ad that urges you not to buy and actually means it.

Vancouver-based Adbusters is behind both the ad and Buy Nothing Day itself, which coincides with Black Friday.

As the holiday season approaches, consumers have a choice. We can buy whatever retailers advertise, or we can buy whatever retailers winkingly tell us not to buy.

Or we can buy nothing at all, and rest assured that the one thing we won’t get for Christmas is debt.