Robert Frank thinks so

The costs to store owners and their employees and families are enormous: millions must now spend time away from home on the one occasion that all Americans, regardless of religion or cultural background, share as a family holiday.

These costs might be worth bearing if they led to even larger gains. But when all outlets open earlier, no one benefits. Few people actually want to shop in the wee hours, and the purchases that do occur then are presumably offset, dollar for dollar, by reduced sales during normal business hours. Even the shoppers who turn out for early openings seem motivated primarily by a fear that others might snap up bargains before they get there. But if all stores opened later, there would be no fewer bargains than before. In short, we have a classic collective action problem, an arms race.

I can’t see how this could possibly work out.

For example, I offer to potential employees that I will be closed on Black Friday, guaranteeing them as much time with their family as they like. This allows me to attract better workers at lower costs.

Then, instead I hold a sale on the Saturday after black Friday. I hold back my inventory for this day and am offering sales to shoppers who didn’t want to stand in line on Friday to be sure they got the best merchandise, or who did stand in line on Friday but still lost out.

This gives me an advantage in attracting both customers and workers that allows me to increase profits.

If this strategy fails then it would need to be because people prefer standing in line on Black Friday morning to finding the exact same sales at my store on Saturday.

Indeed, I suspect this is the case and the Holiday and shared experience that is Black Friday brings enjoyment to Americans greatly in excess of the costs of the experience.

HT: Cowen