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Our View: Sales can wait; take a healthy hike for Black Friday

From the editorial: "With boots and heavy coats and even bomber hats if necessary, let’s consider a new tradition this year: A long hike in a state park. ... In Minnesota, they’re free today."

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2018 News Tribune file photo / Svetlana Vold of Minneapolis takes a selfie on the swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park on a free-admission day in 2018.
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Let’s face it, Black Friday has long lost its luster, now more code for weeks of holiday sales than the one-day bonding and shopping extravaganza with friends and family that it used to be. Two years of COVID-19 shutdowns, restrictions, and distancing requirements trained us to go online to get our Christmas shopping done. Cyber Monday has the real one-day deals, we now know. And who wants to be crammed earmuff-to-earmuff inside a stuffy store anyway? Or get up hours before dawn to overrun a store’s just-unlocked front doors?

On this Friday after Thanksgiving, let’s think outdoors rather than indoors, recalling that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. With boots and heavy coats and even bomber hats if necessary, let’s consider a new tradition this year: A long hike in a state park or recreation area to work off all that turkey and pumpkin pie from yesterday. In Minnesota, they’re free today.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has decided to waive entrance fees — today is one of four such free days each year — to all 75 state parks and recreation areas, including Jay Cooke in Carlton and Tettegouche, Split Rock, and Gooseberry Falls up the North Shore.

“Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are open year-round and provide places of peace and beauty to recharge during the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season,” DNR Parks and Trails Division Director Ann Pierce said in a statement last week. “It’s a fantastic time to get out into nature with friends and family following Thanksgiving celebrations.”

Spending time in nature can improve attention, lower stress, reduce the risk of psychiatric disorders, and even increase empathy and cooperation, the DNR said, citing the American Psychological Association.

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Don’t expect a lot of staffing at park offices or visitor centers today. Any guidance you may need is posted on self-orientation signs near park entrances or can be found at the DNR’s website, mndnr.gov. You can also download a map at the site to help track your location.

As inviting as that is, if you just have to go shopping today — Minnesota is the 11th-most Black Friday-obsessed state, after all, with Wisconsin No. 24, according to fashion experts at Boohoo , who examined Google Trends data — there are a few things to keep in mind.

Small Business Saturday is tomorrow, with its plea from local merchants to please buy local and support the local economy.

Canal Park is open, as its business association reminded with a press release last week. Not that long ago, many Canal Park businesses closed during slower winter months. The trend toward staying open reflects Duluth’s transition as a year-round destination for visitors and tourists.

And shoppers. Even with inflation — which drove up the cost of all goods by 8.2% from September 2021 to September 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — shoppers this week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to spend $500 on average, a 12% bump from 2021, a Deloitte survey of 1,200 adults found.

Retailers and businesses, perhaps more than in any other year, are banking on robust holiday shopping so they can use a black pen in their ledgers to indicate profit rather than the red ink of bleeding deficits. That change in ink color is why Black Friday was nicknamed Black Friday in the first place. We're certainly reminded of that this getting-back-to-normal year, especially with our holiday shopping habits shifting.

For some, shopping isn’t just about gifts for loved ones, though. It’s “retail therapy,” that can-be-unhealthy habit of purchasing things to make ourselves feel better. It’s costing more than 1.8 million Minnesota adults $384 million, according to a survey by CouponBirds , who polled 3,000 consumers regarding their online purchasing habits. One in 10 who do this say they look forward to Black Friday more than to Thanksgiving.

“Most of us would agree that a little ‘retail therapy’ at the end of a hard day lifts our mood, albeit temporarily. However, it appears that millions of Americans are purchasing things online as more of a permanent fix to their mental health struggles,” CouponBirds said in a statement. “The survey also found that each retail therapy session typically costs shoppers an average of $212.95.”

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That’s often at the expense of other, more reputable ways of improving mental health, like exercising.

Perhaps in a state park. Which are free today in Minnesota. And on a day when many of us could use a little healthy activity.

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DNT

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