An exploratory investigation of Black Friday consumption rituals

Jane Boyd Thomas (Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA)
Cara Peters (Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Publication date: 7 June 2011



The purpose of the present study is to explore the collective consumption rituals associated with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and one of the largest shopping days in the USA.


The research design for this study followed the approach of psychological phenomenological interviewing. Over a two‐year period, the authors, along with trained research assistants, conducted interviews with experienced female Black Friday shoppers.


Qualitative data from 38 interviews indicated that Black Friday shopping activities constitute a collective consumption ritual that is practiced and shared by multiple generations of female family members and close friends. Four themes emerged from the data: familial bonding, strategic planning, the great race, and mission accomplished. The themes coalesced around a military metaphor.

Practical implications

The findings of this study indicate that Black Friday shoppers plan for the ritual by examining advertisements and strategically mapping out their plans for the day. Recommendations for retailers are presented.


This exploratory investigation of Black Friday as a consumption ritual offers new insight into the planning and shopping associated with this well‐known American pseudo‐holiday. Findings also extend theory and research on collective consumption rituals.



Boyd Thomas, J. and Peters, C. (2011), "An exploratory investigation of Black Friday consumption rituals", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 39 No. 7, pp. 522-537.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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