Black Friday: the day that shoppers traditionally put on their tackiest Christmas sweaters and make a mad dash to the stores in the pre-dawn hours to fight other shoppers for the best deals on holiday gifts. At least, that's the way it used to be.
While retailers bank on the money generated by frenzied shopping the day after Thanksgiving, most stores have had to change the way they approach Black Friday.
"A lot of that has to do with the fact that retailers are realizing that it costs them a lot less to have an online presence and ship the item from their store to you as a consumer rather than hiring staff and having to pay salary and benefits and overhead of the store," said James Miller, Senior Director of External Affairs with the Georgia Retail Association. "That's why you're seeing a lot of Black Friday deals available online and in stores [earlier] and everywhere they can to make it easier on them, to reduce the burden on them."
Miller said consumers have plenty of money to spend this year, and while that's good news for big box stores and small retailers alike, the good economy ironically has caused a problem for retailers.
"Everyone has a job, so it's really hard to find those seasonal employees that you need to handle the rush of customers that you have during that 60-day period in November and December," Miller said.
With that in mind, Miller said shoppers may have to exercise even more patience during Black Friday sales.
"One thing we always recommend is if you're going to the stores, always have a plan before you leave the house," Miller said. "Identify the items that you want to get and more importantly, identify the stores you want to get them at. It's going to make your trip a lot easier."
Miller said in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, the most popular destinations for Black Friday shopping were the malls in the metro areas; that's not necessarily the case today.
"Shopping malls haven't changed in 50 years - basically, it's the same concept for 50 years," Miller said. "As a result, people are leaving the malls and you're seeing a lot of the malls reshape themselves."
He said shoppers today aren't interested in parking in a large parking lot and walking long distances to find a store where they want to shop; most consumers want an expedited shopping trip.
"That format is now being flipped over where you're now seeing the stores on the outside of the mall with an open-air environment inside, cobblestone streets in the middle and it's very easy to get to so you can pop in, find your store and pop out."
Miller said even if the face of Black Friday is changing to fit shoppers' wants, retailers still plan for the day, doing their best to create a shopping experience to launch the holiday season.
"You're still going to have people who want to go out on Black Friday - it's a tradition for their family, it's something they like to do, to brave the crowds, so there are some stores that will have the Black Friday deals only for those shoppers who are willing to show up in person," Miller said. "Some people just love to go out there for Black Friday and handle the chaos that comes with it."