At the bottom of yet another article about Black Friday, I found this interesting quote from a Sears executive about how Americans view shopping:
Sears, like many retailers, will make many Black Friday deals available online. At Sears, they’re available to the store’s Shop Your Way members (there’s no fee to join, and it can be done online).
“Shopping is a sport to many people, and this is the Super Bowl,” Hanover added.
Americans tend to like their sports so could shopping really supplant football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and other activities? Here are some reasons this could happen:
1. The average American probably gets a lot more opportunities to shop than to play sports. It is different to observe a sport versus participating in shopping.
2. Shopping can now take place in many different places. As brick and mortar retailers have noticed, online shopping makes it possible to look at, think through, and make purchases from virtually anywhere.
3. Shopping is a fairly frequent activity. Even if someone spends very little disposable income, that person still has to shop for groceries and essentials.
4. Shopping incorporates some of the same features as watching sports or cheering for sports teams. Shoppers are fans of particular brands. Shopping can be done with other people, building and cementing group bonds. Shopping can be ritualistic. In other words, the same sort of social benefits of group activity suggested by Durkheim that could apply to sports could also apply to shopping.
5. Shopping is a critical part of our economy. While people do need to purchase certain goods regularly, new products like the latest smartphones, cars, video games, and other things are important for corporations, the stock market, and thus, stockholders which includes a wide range of Americans.
6. Shopping in America is often tied to holidays like Christmas, Thankgiving, and Halloween. Spending can be easier to justify because it is for the holidays plus it is related to social interactions that take place those days.
7. Compared to most of human history, more people now have the time and income to devote to shopping beyond subsistence.
Shopping itself deserves more attention from sociologists. While plenty of sociologists in recent decades have looked at consumption patterns (often focused on the products or objects acquired through consumption), this isn’t quite the same as looking at the process of shopping. I have enjoyed reading Sharon Zukin’s work on shopping; for example, see Chapter 6 “While the City Shops” in The Cultures of Cities.