We’ve all been hearing about Black Friday in all its glorious marketing savvy from the newspapers we read, the television commercials we watch, the radio spots we hear, and the flyers and postcards that get distributed around our towns, communities, and all over the country at this time of year. What’s it all about, and why the craze?
Here’s the best description I could find on the fly as I frantically write this article for TheUpperValley.com, sitting in front of the warm glow of woodstove in Lyme, NH, six days before Thanksgiving, while hoping my stack of split firewood will last through the winter.
Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November), often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In recent years, most major retailers have opened very early and offered promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many Commonwealth nations. Black Friday is not a holiday, but California and some other states observe "The Day After Thanksgiving" as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday such as Columbus Day. Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the day after off, followed by a weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation was made: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss ("in the red") from January through November, and "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or "in the black".
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 A.M., but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time. In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 P.M. on Thanksgiving Day (except in states where opening on Thanksgiving is prohibited due to blue laws, such as Massachusetts where they still opened around midnight), prompting calls for a walkout among some workers. There have been reports of violence occurring between shoppers on Black Friday. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)
Ok, so Black Friday seems to be the Big Box store way of turning some of us into violent shoppers who help get retail ledgers into the black as the shopping season kicks off. We transform into shoppers through savvy marketing techniques that capture our attentions with the glitter and charm of wares produced in places rarely, if ever, mentioned. Certainly, local producers are occasionally tapped to fill big store shelves with products, but more likely it’s the far away companies that mass produce items who get their goods promoted.
So, here we are in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont.
What will we do on the day after Thanksgiving?
Will we plunge headlong into the masses of shoppers gripped in the frenzy of queuing up in lines at midnight? Will we jostle with one another to grab the glittering charm that was produced by a factory a long way from home? Or will we step back and think about all our local friends, family, and community members who ply their trade and produce items right here in our own special Upper Valley region of NH and VT?
Let’s face it, we’re not really known here as an artist colony. If we were, then we’d be walking down a street filled with galleries and studios where our next-door neighbors might greet us as we enter his or her shop. Yet, we do have a huge number of local artists and artisan crafters living all around in the woods, hills, and valleys, in cabins and houses, on and off the grid, who need to sell their locally produced goods to help them survive the winter months as their wood piles diminish when the cold takes hold. In fact, I'd suggest that we're living right smack in the middle of one of the largest artist colonies in the world!
Let’s see. Fine art. Fine furniture. Scarves. Wool socks. Glassware. Wooden bowls. Wooden spoons. Jewelry galore! Children’s toys. Jewelry boxes. Hats. Mittens. Ceramics and pottery. Silk and cotton. Fabric art and folk art. Pottery for cyclists! Floor mats and place mats. Table runners. Potholder looms for children and adults. Handbags. Bee’s Wrap to replace plastic wrap. Beeswax candles. Wooden bowls. Sculpture. Felted items. Marble slides for two and three players at a time. The “Golf Bench!” made by ‘The Bench Mensch” of Lyme, NH. Hand lotions and creams. Shaving soap. Hand soap. Fine photography. Oil pastels. Watercolors. Wood block prints. Ornaments. Lighting. And more. All are produced right here, locally, in our Upper Valley!
So, what more can you need that’s not produced locally? Well, food, of course. Find a local farm and buy a freezer full of beef, chicken, pork, or lamb to get you through the winter months. I guarantee you the farmer will offer you a smile unlike the harried sales clerk behind the counter under flickering fluorescent lights perched 20 feet above aisles and shelves that stretch to the sky. Instead of jostling for space, and being just one more face in the crowd, you might just make a new friend who happens to live within a few miles of your house. From there, magic will happen! A friendship is yours for the making as you poke your head into each little farm stand or local shop that sells locally produced goods from our very own friends and neighbors.
I call it the “New, New, New Local Way to Shop,” and “Go Local, Local, Local!” This kind of shopping is good for you, and good for our Upper Valley community. And rather then help put the unknown ledgers of the world in the black this coming Friday, you’ll know you’ll be helping someone who may be kind enough to pull your car out of a snow bank this winter, help you stack your firewood, deliver your oil, pack your groceries, or have their child mow your lawn or babysit your own kids some day. In this unique community, we live in a virtuous circle. Let’s take the lead and shop locally, for local products, made by our local community members of artists, craftspeople, and farmers.
Local Friday! Here in the Upper Valley, we can make it the best, and most important day of their year. And you’ll feel good as you help redefine the day after Thanksgiving as “Local Friday!” for today, tomorrow, and always!
While I can’t say for certain the below photo is accurate, I’m quite certain that if we all made purchases from local stores and farms, from local friends and neighbors, who produce goods right here, in our local area, we’d be making a real difference, and helping the people we see every day. Let’s give “Local Friday!” a try this year and next, after which, it'll become a great Upper Valley tradition!