By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
Christmas is infamously the number one retail sales holiday in America. Surveys report the average American will spend over $850 on holiday gifts for their loved ones, which is slightly less than it was 10 years ago – or before the recession hit. In 2002, people were reportedly spending over $1,000 on average for gifts.
In 2012, roughly 40 percent of people polled in a certain survey said they will make purchases from a department store, retail outlet or direct consumer catalogue while 45 percent said they will utilize the internet to secure purchases. This is the highest percentage of online holiday shopping, up from 37 percent in 2011.
Over 54 percent of those polled report that they wait to make purchases until items go on sale, which could be why the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, has become such a popular American tradition. Some sources have dubbed Black Friday as an unofficial American Holiday.
The term Black Friday was coined in the 1960s to mark the official beginning of the Christmas shopping rush, though the day has been thought as the official start to holiday shopping since 1924, which marked the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Since so many Americans report looking for bargains, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to camp out the night before a huge holiday sale at storefronts which allow such activity. Some stores entice shoppers by slashing prices so low they don’t make a profit.
And boy does the effort pay off. Recently, however, concerns have mounted regarding the literal shopping frenzy that’s escalated to lives being lost.
In 2008 at a Long Island Walmart, a seasonal employee was trampled to death. At Target in 2011, a female shopper reportedly used pepper spray to ward off anyone in her path. Research will yield reports of people collapsing or being trampled. This year alone, two San Benito News employees witnessed brutal behavior at local stores on Black Friday; one witnessed a JCPenney customer pull a knife out of her purse to fight for a marked down item, and the other saw an adult female push a small child out of her way to a discounted bin.
The News took to the streets to inquire how much members of the community anticipate spending on gifts and how they feel about the shopping frenzy.
Jim Thornton, a 60-year-old business executive with a leasing company said he won’t be celebrating his holiday season by purchasing or exchanging presents. “This year, I’m giving back,” said Thornton. “I am donating my time to a toy run this weekend and a prison ministry next weekend.” For Thornton, the Christmas holiday is more about “being thankful for family.” He reflected upon the loss of a loved one and said, “I’m just blessed that my family can be all together and we all have good health.”
A 24-year-old business professional in the medical sales field, Jonathan Brydon, said he won’t even bother going shopping until the last possible minute. “I shop at the last second. Most likely, I’ll put off (gift buying) until the last possible minute,” said Brydon who also plans to do a lot of his shopping online and at Bass Pro Shop. He anticipates purchasing gifts for around 10 people.
“I don’t know when I’ll start,” said Matt Rizvi, 40, area manager of a hotel chain. “I haven’t started my shopping yet. Maybe I’ll start next week,” he said. Although Rizvi explained that he hasn’t compiled a wish list for himself, he anticipates buying gifts for some 20 friends and relatives and estimates this will set him back at least $1,000.
Rizvi said he didn’t go to Black Friday sales because, “I don’t like being in a mess. I like to go after the fact.” Rizvi also admits to being an online shopper. When asked why, he simply said, “Convenience.”
Stay-at-home-mom, Trolena Loya, is 42 and has four children. When asked how many gifts she expected to purchase this year, her eyes widened. She said, “A lot.” Loya said she prefers to do her shopping online because she can “do it after the kids go to bed.” Unlike the gentlemen polled, Loya said she started her shopping months ago and said, “I’ve almost purchased everything…but nothing’s wrapped yet.”
Loya didn’t want to say how much she spent on gifts but mentioned she purchased presents for all of her children, their teachers, charities and the church she attends. Loya said she steered clear of the Black Friday mayhem.
Photographer Marian Blake, 36, said, “I’m almost finished buying my gifts.” She expanded, “Everyone’s gifts are mostly taken care of.” Blake started “shopping nearly two months ago.” A mother of three, Blake explained that unique Christmas gifts are her specialty. “I make a personalized calendar for everyone in my family. They love it. It’s something they can’t get anywhere else.”
None of the individuals polled fought the crowds on Black Friday, including those who responded to a Facebook poll. Whether or not the statistics above, which are all accredited to a survey posted on November 15 by American Research Group Inc., are representative of this area, it’s inarguable that to some, the holiday season has evolved from a season of love and togetherness to a time to shop ‘til they drop.
Read this story in the Dec. 2 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.