Does Black Friday still matter?

November 21, 2017

The holiday shopping season moves into high gear this week with an earlier-than-usual Black Friday. The mad dash for holiday deals may never go away, but the importance of a single day devoted to those deals appears to be waning, while the types of gifts that are popular also continue to evolve. USC experts in business, retail, technology and policy discuss the shopping trends that are shaping the 2017 holidays.

Contact: Ian Chaffee, (213) 810-8554 or

Image: Lining up at midnight for Black Friday deals on electronics may be a waning holiday tradition. (Photo/Robert Stromberg)


Never-ending sales

“This year, Thanksgiving happens relatively early, on Nov. 23. This is good news for retailers in the sense that there will be more time for consumers to shop. It may not have a large effect on the number of individuals to whom gifts are ultimately given, but it may result in more ‘extras’ being bought for family members.

“A major factor will likely be the bargains that Amazon will offer. Usually, Amazon’s sale items are spread over time. It is a lot easier to make certain deals available only for a few hours and then quickly adding in new ones online than it would be in brick-and-mortar stores where, during a sale, there would be a lot of traffic and heavy demand on store employees’ attention for checkout and help in locating items.

“Sales have also been ‘stretched,’ with many new sales happening before and during the Thanksgiving weekend and on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday seems to have been revived as a means to extend the Thanksgiving sales.

“It is not clear whether there will be any significant sales on Thanksgiving Day itself this year in brick-and-mortar stores. Some retailers had tried this practice during the recession, but there was considerable backlash from shoppers who felt that store employees should be able to spend their time with their families rather than working on Thanksgiving.”

Lars Perner can discuss historical offline and online shopping trends, bargain hunting and other consumer behaviors, especially around the holiday season. He is also available to speak on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. He is an assistant professor of clinical marketing at the USC Marshall School.

Contact: (213) 304-1726 or


Black Friday: Just another day?

“Many of us like to marvel at, complain about or participate in the craziness of Black Friday shopping. However, data shows that sales on the day after Thanksgiving have declined over the past two years and there are reasons to expect the trend to continue.

“First, as Americans continue to embrace online retailing, fewer shoppers are entering physical stores overall. Second, big box retailers now sneak ahead with promotions and discounts earlier in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving. For instance, Wal-Mart has been throwing in-store parties throughout November and December to lure customers from online and away from other retailers.

“This is probably not an indication that Americans are giving up on holiday shopping. In fact, with the economy fairly strong at the moment, we could see more sales this season than last. But the nature of when and where we purchase our gifts may be changing for good.”

Anthony Dukes can discuss Black Friday promotions, the consumer retail experience and the strategies of online and big box stores. He is available to speak on Black Friday and through the weekend. He is an associate professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

Contact: (213) 740-3486 or


Is your new toy spying on you?

“As consumers shop for gifts this holiday season, there is a much greater concern for cyber security. As in years past, shoppers are vulnerable to scams intended to steal their credit card and bank account information, but this year they are seeing new technology gifts that will invade their privacy and diminish their security for years to come. They are the gifts that keeps on taking.

“Installing a home security camera or a personal assistant like Amazon Echo and Google Home leaves cameras and microphones always on in your personal spaces. Someone who hacks into your cloud account or who defeats the security of the camera itself can be listening or watching you. A significant percentage of wireless home security cameras come with vulnerabilities that allow a hacker to take over the device and, through the device, gain access to your home network. This spring, we learned about hacks that allow smart televisions to become remotely accessible listening posts.

“Of course, these concerns apply only to grown-up gifts, right? Not so fast. We are seeing a lot of interactive toys that access services on the internet, and these can be controlled to speak to your kids, convincing them to let someone in or do other things that are not safe.

“And if you want your gifts delivered through your front door using a wifi-enabled door lock, you better think twice about who has access to the lock, and how a hacker can gain control of your physical security.”

Clifford Neuman is director of the USC Center for Computer Systems Security at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He can discuss web-connected device security and best personal information safety practices for online and in-store shopping.

Contact: (310) 448-8736 or


Holiday gifts becoming less material and more mindful

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett can discuss the dynamics of millennial gift-giving, conspicuous consumption and the impact of high-end retail. Currid-Halkett believes today’s consumers seek out more experience-driven goods and services rather than just buying material goods. She is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning and professor of public policy at the USC Price School of Public Policy. Her book on consumption practices, “The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class” is now available. You may learn more about her work at

Contact: (213) 740-4012 or

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