Black Friday Is for the Young

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A new Gallup poll revealed two unexpected characteristics of Black Friday. One is that the portion of the population that shops on Black Friday is fairly small. The other is that young people are in stores that day, but older Americans are not. According to the Gallup report:

Despite all the attention focused on “Black Friday” shopping, fewer than one in five Americans say they plan to shop on the day after Thanksgiving this year. But more than a third of those aged 18 to 29 report they will be taking advantage of the sales and price discounts. Black Friday shopping intentions drop off as age increases, falling to 8% for those 65 and older.

Who is smarter, the old or the young?

The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out that some Black Friday specials actually are priced above deals on the same merchandise at other times of the year. Stores promote deals in the hope that shoppers will not remember what they might have paid last summer. Someone is being duped. It may be that younger people pay less attention to the past.

More likely is that the huge crush of people who shop on Black Friday puts off older people, who do not want to be caught in the scrum of crowds who push one another to grab items and then wait in long lines to pay for them. It would be ironic if older people spent time at home shopping online while the PC-savvy generation hit the stores.

Another reason older Americans may stay out of stores early in the holiday season is that much of what they buy is not trendy. Younger people may clamor for consumer electronics and the latest technology. Older Americans may be more likely to buy things that are in stores year after year — sweaters and perfume.

And, finally, there is the notion that with age comes wisdom. Desperate retailers who have brought on too much inventory will drop prices in December. Just a few weeks of patience brings better deals.

Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 15 to 18, 2012, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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