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Black Friday science: Day designed to make you spend

9:00 AM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We have all seen the advertisements featuring the mother who finds the perfect gifts for her children or the woman who practices pushing a cart in high heels to prepare for Black Friday shopping.  

According to Jacksonville University sociology professor, Dr. Heather Downs the idea of being the "perfect gift giver" drives many shoppers on the busiest day of the year.

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"Black Friday just plays into all these cultural notions of gift giving and consumption and also this notion of winning and getting a deal and that feels really good to people," said Dr. Downs.

Serious Black Friday shoppers are also extremely invested in "winning" that day.  Some surveys show that people spend about four hours planning their shopping trip before they ever arrive at a store, so they can beat out other shoppers.

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"You really feel like you've accomplished something," Downs explained.  "You've won this shopping competition and so that extra effort that you had to put in is what's making that psychological payoff feel better for you."

Family Time

Dr. Downs said most Black Friday shoppers are groups of related females.  Mother-daughter teams or even grandmothers and aunts see shopping as special time with their family members.  

"Familial bonding is an important part of the shopping experience.  So it'll be primarily the women in the family who are getting up together early Friday morning and doing all this shopping and for them, it's all about that bond and the fun you have with your female family members," said Downs.

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That is why she believes many stores that are opening on Thanksgiving Day are feeling push back from some of the biggest Black Friday fans.  

Calming the Crowds

Stores know that shoppers are more likely to buy items while in groups, said Downs.  That is part of the reason retailers make consumers line up outside of stores, but that can also lead to crowd control problems.  

Many stores limit how many shoppers can enter the building at once or literally walk people through the store to find their items.  

"Control your personal behavior because that has an influence over how others are acting," Downs warned.  "All it takes is one really poorly monitored line and someone deciding that they're going to run that's going to then create this panic and this running among people."  

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