Imagine a line of people early in the morning on Black Friday, eagerly waiting for a store’s doors to open to get deep discounts and kick-start their holiday shopping. Americans wait for hours in the cold to take part in this phenomenon, which has been intensifying in recent years, to the point where many places are opening as early as 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving night.
Now imagine the people in that line not waiting to get into a Best Buy or Wal-Mart, but instead an independent record store. In 2010 began “Back to Black” Friday, a creation of the folks who put on Record Store Day – a yearly event that began in April 2008 – which celebrates independently owned record shops with limited edition releases only available in these stores. From their website:
“In the past Black Friday was an American event created by large corporate retailers as a shopping day that promoted mass produced items at super low prices in hopes of driving customers into their stores. RSD’s Black Friday subverts the model and creates pieces of art in the form of limited special editions, often numbered, from a diverse list of beloved artists. RSD’s version of Black Friday is an excuse to celebrate both the pieces themselves and the special indie record stores who carry them. Cheap, mass-produced frenzy is not the goal. “
Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma, WA has experienced first hand the remarkable impact this has on sales. A day that used to be the slowest of the year has become the height of their holiday season. People wait in line all morning to be the first ones through the door, excited to get their hands on limited edition titles that you cannot find online, many of which are never available again. After the first rush, the small store is packed throughout the day, some looking for leftover titles and others taking advantage of the store-wide 20% off used items sale that goes through the weekend.
This is just one aspect of the changing face of retail – rock bottom prices may not be the only deciding factor for where we spend our money. More and more, people are deciding to shop locally and “vote” with their wallet; an effort to keep mega corporations from obliterating the specialty shops that make their towns unique. If the success of Record Store Day and RSD’s “Back to Black” Friday is any indication, they are doing just that.