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Time to say buh-bye to Black Friday

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For weeks, my Facebook news feed has been filled with calls to boycott Thanksgiving Day shopping, on the grounds that retail employees deserve the day off to spend with family and friends.

(And kudos, here, to my friend Susan, who took those Facebook friends on to point out that lots of people — from nurses, EMTs and police officers to journalists, broadcast technicians and retail call center workers — have always worked on all the holidays, and nobody cries out for them. In fact, we'd be pretty peeved if the emergency room were closed or we couldn't watch TV for a day.)

Earlier and earlier store openings finally backing up into Thanksgiving Day itself are a phenomenon of Black Friday, once considered the start of the holiday shopping season and the day retailers supposedly tip into the black on the ledger books.

I say "once considered," because anyone who actually pays attention to consumer trends will tell you Black Friday is heading toward the rubbish heap of history, where it will soon languish with the fading memories of laws that banned shopping on Sundays and with — yes — Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday? Not so long ago, shoppers barely recovered from the rush of Black Friday staggered into work the following Monday, booted up their office computers and finished off their shopping lists online. That stretched into Cyber Week, and now online shopping is so routine that any sense of a special online shopping time is blurring into business as usual.

My inbox has filled every day this month with "pre-holiday" online shopping offers.

What's going on here? Well, some analysts (as far back as 2012) say the recession is partly to blame. Consumers became more careful about budgeting, and they spread their spending out over a wider period of time to lessen the impact on their wallets, never mind their credit cards.

Credit card debt, after all, has declined. This analysis from shows that not only did total credit card indebtedness fall since 2010, that debt is spread across fewer Americans.

Then, too, most people didn't really enjoy shopping before sunrise, dealing with the traffic or standing in line for a crack at a limited-time, limited-quantity "bargain" they might not get.

And we all know people who have their holiday shopping done by Oct. 1 so they can concentrate on the first major holiday of the year — Halloween.

But ultimately, the retailers themselves are killing the golden goose. Forever needing to get a jump on the competition, 6 a.m. openings became 2 a.m., which became — oh, look! Wal-Mart had a "Pre-Black Friday Event" last Friday, an entire week ahead of the main event.

Black Friday? Time to put a fork in it.

The week ahead

The Central Penn Business Journal office will be closed Thursday and Friday this week, but our print issue will be out right on time as usual.

Thinking about buying a business or selling yours? Find out the top five turnoffs that can squelch your deal.

Also Friday, reporter Brent Burkey delves into the Endangered Species Coordination Act that just emerged from state House committee. There's a lot not to like for both sides on the issue — developers and environmentalists alike.

It's a holiday week, but you never want to stop working on your professional networks. Find opportunities here.

The rewind

OK, admit it. You want to find bargains and the odds are good you'll find yourself out for at least an hour or two Friday to snag one or two.

Central Penn Parent's Thrifty Mom — coupon maven and bargain-detector extraordinaire — is here to help. She does the research so you don't have to. Last week, she ran down offerings from CVS, including $65 in items you can get for free. And Monday, her regular blog post day, she will detail some of the best deals at stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, as well as provide resources to see if those deals are really as good as retailers want you to think.

Also, as you take to the shopping road, think about visiting local retailers. First inspired by American Express, many community downtowns and independent business owners in the midstate have "shop local" promotions Saturday.

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