fb-pixel Skip to main content

Remember when Black Friday was really a thing?

Not so long ago, it was the Super Bowl of retail, with rabid fans and plenty of live action.

In 2012, people lined up outside Sears at South Shore Plaza in Braintree just after midnight on Black Friday.
In 2012, people lined up outside Sears at South Shore Plaza in Braintree just after midnight on Black Friday.Aram Boghosian

The reports of Black Friday’s death were not exaggerated. Seven years ago, a Globe story proclaimed that the retail frenzy, “long considered the single biggest shopping day of the year and the ceremonial start of the holiday season, has died, succumbing to rampant competition and complications from the Internet. It was nearly 50 years old.”

The annual marketing concoction had lapsed into critical condition long before that, its declining health caused largely by the growing influence of Amazon on consumers’ buying habits. The next year, 2015, the gargantuan retailer debuted its Prime Day marketing event, selling ― among countless other products ― 47,000 televisions in 24 hours to customers who didn’t have to get off their couches, never mind shiver in sub-freezing temperatures outside a big-box store.


Since then, well, you know how the story goes ― Black Friday became Black November, and anyone on e-mail or the Internet now gets bombarded with Black Friday-like deals around the clock, all year round.

Some people will still get an adrenaline rush from careening through a store in search of a Rainbow High fashion doll or a WowWee Got2Glow Fairy Finder on Friday, but for most of us, the thrill is gone, replaced by convenience, and the realization that the whole thing is a gimmick past its shelf life. These days, the unfortunately named “doorbuster” deals come right to our front door via a Prime truck. Losing sleep to snag a bargain seems so 2011.

Back in the day, the Globe routinely mobilized a formidable force to cover Black Friday like it was the Super Bowl of shopping. We planned, we strategized, we brainstormed for fresh angles (any waiting line marriage proposals?). It was the undisputed retail story of the year. We would dispatch more than half a dozen less-than-enthusiastic reporters and photographers to chronicle the spectacle. Some started their shifts before midnight on Thanksgiving to greet the throngs at Walmart, Best Buy, and shopping centers in Burlington, Wrentham, and beyond. One year, we profiled a cabal of women who had made Black Friday shopping an annual holiday ritual for three decades.


In the newsroom, editors assembled feeds from reporters to post play-by-play descriptions of the action online ― frayed tempers in aisle 3! ― and to use later in print. By 8 a.m., the operation was in full swing and most of us were on our third cup of bland Globe coffee. This Friday, the morning caffeine intake will be down, the lines around the region will likely be shorter, and some people will inevitably boast about how much they saved on this season’s hottest whatever.

It’s hard to forecast whether the holiday season will end up meeting retailers’ expectations (the National Retail Federation expects robust business). But there is one prediction for Black Friday we’d always bet an Amazon gift card on: Parking spaces at South Shore Plaza in Braintree will be in short supply.

Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com.