The hidden cost of Black Friday
The Black Friday chaos we used to see in storefronts and shopping malls has moved to logistics centers and warehouses all over the world:
- Hundreds of thousands of employees work long hours — often in tough conditions — to get through the holiday rush.
The big picture: E-commerce's growing share of the retail market, continued COVID precautions and an extended holiday shopping season means we might see shorter lines and smaller crowds in stores on Black Friday.
- But the type of strain Black Friday used to place on in-store retail workers hasn't gone away. It's simply moved out of public view.
By the numbers: In-store traffic on Black Friday last year was down a staggering 28% from pre-pandemic levels, CNBC reports.
- Online shoppers outnumbered in-store shoppers 88 million to 67 million on Black Friday 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.
The stakes: The barrage of holiday orders creates a surge in demand for short-term labor, said Tom Vickers, who leads the Work Futures Research Group at Nottingham Trent University.
- "The evidence suggests that if anything things are getting worse for workers not better," Vickers said.
What they're saying: Amazon told Business Insider, ""We are proud of the great working conditions, wages and benefits, and career opportunities we provide for our associates all year round."
What to watch: Retailers are rapidly adding cutting-edge automation to warehouses. But instead of making workers' lives easier, the machines could push them to work even faster, experts say.
- "People have to fit in with the machines," Vickers said. "But human beings are not standardized."
The bottom line: Black Friday sales are projected to hit $942 billion this year, up 6% from last year, per CBS News.
- As consumer demand for deals and speed grows, online retailers, will continue to mobilize hundreds of thousands of workers and machines to meet that demand.