Black Friday shoppers motivated by family tradition, thrill of the 'hunt'

Nov 22, 2012

Some shoppers are gearing up to hit the stores this evening for Black Friday sales that have now crept into Thursday. Sears and Walmart are starting their sales at 8 pm, and Target at 9 pm. But what motivates people to brave the Black Friday shopping frenzy?

Jane Boyd Thomas is a marketing professor at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She wanted to understand the ritual of Black Friday shopping – why some people have turned it into a family tradition.

She discovered that shoppers are motivated as much by adventure as by snagging a good deal. Camping out in front of a store, dividing and conquering once you get inside - she says it all makes for a good story.

"`I stood outside, I braved the elements, and look what I bagged, a television – a flat screen – and brought it home,'" Thomas said. "It's the human instinct of hunter, gatherer, warrior, storyteller."

Thomas says for these folks, Black Friday shopping is as much about family togetherness as Thanksgiving dinner.

But not all Black Friday shoppers are motivated by sentimental reasons. Thomas says others view it as a business enterprise – they’re looking to score a cheap flat-screen TV or camera and then flip it for a profit on EBay.