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Black Swan Friday?

Retail monoculture:

The day after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day marks the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales. Crowds gathered outside stores for predawn deals.

Sheesh, when did a shopping day become traditional, for pity's sake?

Whatever, the larger point is that if 40% of sales depend on one day, that's a recipe for disaster; the retail equivalent of a potato famine.

Somehow, sometime, that one day will fail. Will retail have the resilience to survive if it does? No, not if everything has been optimized on the assumption that "tradition" can never be affected by events. More bad models, just like Wall Street.

UPDATE Library-like silence in Manhattan stores. Let's remember that the poor bastard who was mobbed to death worked at a Wal-Mart -- a discount operation.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

The Wal-Mart story just enrages me. It just seems to represent on some many levels everything that's wrong with our society. You see local news anchors reporting on these runs on the megastores as if there is something right and happy about them. They sit and joke and laugh. I don't find a damned thing cute or funny about it. Black Friday nothing more than a primative cattle call for folks that want an excuse to act like animals. I blame both the people and the retailers for continuing to paint this "tradition" as something normal, necessary, and even enjoyable.

BTW, I don't think this is a Black Swan Friday. From all preliminary reports, this seems to have been a Good Friday (pun intended).

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and the news are totally dependent on advertisers, who are dependent on consumer spending. (local papers and news stations especially need store ads or else they're gone)

plus, it's an evergreen story -- automatic and easy -- like holiday travel reports at airports, and 4th of july fireworks safety, and deep-fried turkey danger, and thanksgiving or xmas reports at soup kitchens/shelters, etc.

It's also why you rarely see--even now during this "crisis"--economy stories that acknowledge that consumer spending--and not wall street--are what the economy is based on. They mention retail sales being up or down, and run bargain "gifts" stories and shopping on a "budget" and "tightening our belts" stuff --but hardly ever give consumer spending the actual extreme prominence it deserves.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

I was just talking to my mom and she's remarking how she's heard nothing about this or the many other trampling events that happened specifically at Wal-Marts around the country, yesterday.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Even here, where Macy's is a giant advertiser on tv and in print, when something bad happens at their thanksgiving parade with the balloons, all stories include their actions and role/responsibility in it--and what they'll do next year to make it safer, and how they train the handlers, and how they lower them when it's windy, etc.

yet these deaths are either blamed on the customers -- who were there only because of WalMart's actions and specials -- only available at that time and place -- or treated as "oh well, stuff happens"

Cops here were on tv about the death and injuries on Long Island--and instead of saying they were investigating why there weren't proper procedures or crowd control measures, etc, they were complaining that they themselves were jostled while treating people, and that customers hindered their work in their rush to get in---which also says that they never even took control themselves--or bothered to rope it off as a crime scene or accident, or told the store to close or do anything. Appalling.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

That while they were either recovering the body or taking the guy that got killed to the hospital (was he DOA?), that film crews showed people walking in and out of the store as if nothing happened. I guess consumerism waits for no one.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

working on them too even, i think...there were a bunch injured, including a pregnant woman.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

Just as clarification, when they talk about 40% of sales, they mean for the whole Christmas season, not the one day after Thanksgiving. This is not just big companies. Many small businesses are dependent on sales between Thanksgiving and Xmas for profitability.

I have heard various descriptions of what happened on the news. It is probably more testimony to sloppy coverage by the local news than to attitudes of the public. At first, I heard that the guy had been trampeled. Then I heard that the doors had been knocked down on him. I heard that there was not enough security etc. Finally, I heard a report that this will surely result in lawsuits against Walmart.

Then on the same local report I heard what the result of the holiday shopping was. As usual, I doubt the one report I heard, but it said sales were up from last year. But it is amazing how easily they make the transition from someone being killed in a shopping frenzy to the result of the shopping and what it means for retailers.

It is the fashion to make Christmas into a business report. How do you change that emphasis in local news reporting? And most of the people I know in NY are shocked about it. But we get reports everyday of people getting killed in this city. Death is just a part of the news.

Submitted by lambert on

Remember all the portents in The Seventh Seal? This feels like one of them. "They say a man was trampled at Wal-Mart..."

NOTE The story sayts 40% annual. Either way it's a monoculture, but is the story wrong?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

it's when they go "in the black" for the year for the first time, if all goes well for them saleswise.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Stores need to better plan for crowds, police say

... As police brass dissect what happened when a stampede of shoppers outside a Valley Stream Wal-Mart left a seasonal worker dead, they may lean on the stores themselves to better plan for events like Black Friday, a Nassau police spokesman said yesterday.

Nassau police say the stampede outside the discount chain store was foreseeable given the huge crowds that gather for post-Thanksgiving sales.

"I can't stress enough how the onus is on them," said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, the county police's chief spokesman.

Wal-Mart has defended its security planning, saying it anticipated the large crowds, hired more personnel and put up barricades.

Smith said if businesses refused to work with police to make events safer, authorities could take steps like calling in the fire marshal to inspect the premises for safety.

But the Black Friday melee is proof the department can no longer leave security for these kinds of events as much in the hands of the private business when the public is at risk, said Jim Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association.

"We got caught with our pants down on this one," Carver said. "There should be more communication between the department and the mall on what is going on." ...

may??? could take steps???

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Stop encouraging Black Friday, and then perhaps the crowds will downsize to more appropriate levels, levels that don't resemble a cattle rustling. I know, crazy idea. I'm really not a fan of the whole "send in more police/secruity". To me, that's reactionary, not proactive in any way. What we need to do is head this off from the beginning so there won't need to be copious amounts of law enforcement and security.