While Black Friday draws millions of shoppers, America’s class divide is on display

By Aaron Sanchez-Guerra (News and Observer)

November 22, 2019

Affluent shoppers “pluck”

Steinman points out that affluent shoppers tend to “pluck” during want-based shopping, picking only certain appealing items from various retailers and luxury stores. Shoppers with tight budgets may seek the day’s deals out of necessity, and are often limited as to where they can go to shop.

“Lower income individuals perhaps might not have access to a vehicle, so when they go to the closest retailer, they’re not going there to purchase one thing, they’re going to purchase many things,” Steinman said.

The reality for many shoppers is that they can’t afford not to show up early on Friday, the busiest day of the weekend. Black Friday early-hour specials offer deals on products that are usually too expensive or even on necessities they can’t otherwise afford to buy or replace when damaged.

Research shows that Black Friday shoppers are more likely to be ethnically diverse and to have children than average consumers.

Henry McKoy, a business professor and director of entrepreneurship at NC Central University, said that particularly for low-income communities who are mainly African-American or Latino, Black Friday is a chance to feel that they are participating in a successful economy enjoyed by higher-income people.

“It’s the embodiment of this sense of ‘more than any time in the year now, this connects me to this overall economy,’” McKoy said. “People can feel like, ‘OK, I’m a part of the American dream in some way by being able to take on this massive consumer economy.’”

In some ways, McKoy said, Black Friday is ironic for people of color facing a wealth gap with white Americans.

“[Black Friday] is driven by the joy of saying, ‘Hey, I feel like I’ve got the best of this corporation,’” McKoy said, while pointing out that the opposite is the reality.

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