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Indiana University

Got the Black Friday shopping bug? Better buddy up!

Now something of an endurance sport, Black Friday shopping — and in some cases, Thanksgiving Day shopping — can drain more than just the wallet.

Nancy Barton, lecturer in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, suggests steps shoppers can take to reduce the physical and psychological stress that can accompany what John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at IU, describes as a “retail arms race.”

shopping_web“Some have argued that we are wired for desire as a result of our dopamine reward pathways,” Barton said. “When we are overstimulated by a novel experience or unlimited choices on Black Friday, a craving (for more) and insatiable desire is triggered.”

She said the key to combating these desires relies on the executive, thinking part of the brain. However, this control can be hindered if you are stressed out, tired and hungry, arguably the three main traits of an all-night Black Friday shopper. Here are her suggestions.

  • Consider opting out of Black Friday shopping. “Can’t we think of another way to give a gift? The answer is: ‘Yes we can!’” Barton said. “There is evidence that experiences — not things — make us happy. Experiences are generally more social. They are likely to be a shared moment, anticipated or relived.”
  • Try some self-reflection. “The perfect antidote for ungrateful feelings is to practice a gratefulness meditation,” Barton said. “Every day, list three things that you are grateful for. Embody the feelings of gratefulness. Positive emotions and satisfaction with what you already have start to unfold as you reflect on your list.”
  • Stay healthy and buddy up. “Aim for fun,” she said, “because friends, family, companions and social connections are health promoting.”

Talbott, whose research center is in the Kelley School of Business, said he isn’t sure whether being open on Thanksgiving will move the needle upward when it comes to holiday sales figures. He said it has been proven that holiday sales aren’t affected when the shopping season is condensed and includes fewer weekends. Even weather has little effect, although retailers will always point to this issue when they don’t make sales objectives.

He and Barton said that if people find the Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day shopping to be just too much, they should not participate — send a message with their money.

“If society at large wants to change this sort of behavior, the problem can easily be solved by simply not shopping on Thanksgiving Day,” Talbott said. “This will end the experiment, and chances are other retailers will not attempt it in the future.”

But he doesn’t expect that to happen.

Talbott discusses in this Huffington Post piece a lawmaker’s desire to see retailers pay their Thanksgiving Day employees triple time.  He also discusses retail trends in this Baltimore Sun article.

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