From the opening of Macy’s Thanksgiving parade to the New Year’s sales, the final weeks of the year are a shopper's delight. This period of retail is at the core of the industry's so-called Golden Quarter; or, as it’s increasingly known, ‘
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have started to merge into a single weekend of discount deals, and coming soon after China’s mammoth Single’s Day shop-fest, this period has quickly become as much a tradition for millions of people as turkey and Santa Claus. Online sales are
overtaking footfall sales and the buying bonanza is spreading further around the world.
In 2018, the eCommerce colossus, Amazon,
broke its sales records for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Moreover, Cyber Monday sales across retailers hit an estimated $7.9 billion in the same year, making it the biggest shopping day to date.
In this article we'll take a look at the evolution of Black Friday (and the other shopping days around it), watch how it’s spreading around the world, and consider how it’s evolving from shopping mall frenzy to online conscious-consumer.
The Origins of Black Friday
The name Black Friday originated in the
1950s in Philadelphia, when masses of people would storm the city the day after Thanksgiving and fit in some shopping to coincide with the big Army-Navy football game.
The hard-working police force of that city began to refer to the day as Black Friday thanks to the traffic, shoplifting and general mayhem (some of which might call to mind the more unpleasant shopping mall incidents closer to our time).
The term Black Friday was first used in print in the late 1960s but it was only in the 1980s that US retailers saw its potential. When they brought the name back in, it was in deliberate reference to “being in the black” after a year of poor profits (or “in the red”).
As online shopping became more commonplace, bricks-and-mortar stores started to see yet more potential.
The online efforts and expected profits of the three largest US retailers – Amazon, Walmart and Target – show just how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have merged into
one single weekend of shopping, with lines blurring between in-store and online retailing. Cyber Monday took off in 2005 when shop.org’s founder noticed a huge 77% spike in online sales after Black Friday.
Shoppers have taken seamlessy to the online environment, and for good reason.
Not only do they benefit from pre-Christmas deals but they also get the convenience of going no further than their doorstep to pick up a package, avoiding cold weather and driving to stores.
Amazon’s 2019 move to speed up delivery times even further is an indication of how this convenience has become a given: this initiative alone is expected to cost them
$1.5 billion in the last quarter of this year.
Filling up for the Weekend
The entire weekend after Thanksgiving now has a number of spinoffs marked on many retail calendars, though Sunday has mostly escaped being renamed as it is still a nominal day of rest. After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday, and after Cyber Monday we now have Giving Tuesday.
BLACK FRIDAY – Day After Thanksgiving
In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday and is considered the official kick-off for holiday shopping.
Retailers across the country slash prices, offer doorbuster deals on popular big-ticket items and often open in the wee hours of the morning to extend early bird specials.
Dedicated and thrifty shoppers line up outside the stores to be the first to grab that special deal or this season’s popular and hard-to-find gift.
HOW TO OBSERVE #BlackFriday
Get out for those amazing Black Friday deals.
There are several ways to maximize your Black Friday shopping success:
- Plan ahead. Scour the ads both online and in newspapers.
- Prioritize the wish list. Which item will you save the most if you can nab it?
- Check to see if any of the deals are available online. Why stand in line when you can order from the comfort of your home?
- Compare lists with friends and family. We can’t be in two places at once, and not all the deals on your lists will be at the same store.
- Coordinate with your group to divide and conquer. Work as a team to maximize successful shopping.
- Make sure there isn’t a purchase limit. If there is, make sure the team for that store is big enough to obtain the required number of bounty.
- Set the alarm clock. Some of the best Black Friday deals start soon after midnight.
- Dress warm if you are located in the colder regions of the country.
- Pack a snack, a thermos of tea or coffee and maybe even a lawn chair. Those lines and the wait get long.
- Work in pairs. You don’t want to lose your place in line if nature calls.
Black Friday shopping just isn’t your style? That’s okay. Then all you will need for that is an internet connection and a credit card.
Use #BlackFriday to post on social media.
BLACK FRIDAY HISTORY
The origin of Black Friday is derived from the enormous amount of sales retailers report which can often bring their profits into the black. Black in accounting is used to describe a business making a profit as opposed to being in the red denoting losses.
Before 1980, the term Black Friday had a more ominous term in sports. It was considered a curse. For example, in 1981, on March 13th (an unlucky Friday) the 76ers lost for the second Friday the 13th in a row. Sportswriters used the term Black Friday in reference to their bad luck.
In another reference, the term described the dread of employees who would potentially be without jobs on a Friday. It also reflected the darkest and widest spread financial impacts – the fall of Wall Street. The Black Friday of 1869 may be the earliest use of the term.
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23 November 2029
Black Friday (shopping)
For other uses, see List of Black Fridays and Black Friday (disambiguation).
Friday following Thanksgiving Day
Black FridayDC USA shopping center in Washington, D.C. on Black Friday in 2009Observed byTraditionally:United StatesOthers:Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Benelux, Sweden, Mexico (as El Buen Fin), and increasingly many other parts of the world.TypeCommercialSignificanceShopping holidayCelebrationsShoppingDateDay after U.S. Thanksgiving2019 dateNovember 29 (2019-11-29)2020 dateNovember 27 (2020-11-27)2021 dateNovember 26 (2021-11-26)2022 dateNovember 25 (2022-11-25)FrequencyAnnualRelated toThanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Christmas, Buy Nothing Day
Black Friday is an informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the United States Christmas shopping season since 1952, although the term “Black Friday” did not become widely used until more recent decades.
Many stores offer highly promoted sales on Black Friday and open very early, such as at midnight, or may even start their sales at some time on Thanksgiving.
Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe “The Day After Thanksgiving” as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday, such as Columbus Day.
Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, makes it a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers.
Black Friday has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time. Similar stories resurface year upon year at this time, portraying hysteria and shortage of stock, creating a state of positive feedback.
In 2014, spending volume on Black Friday fell for the first time since the 2008 recession. $50.9 billion was spent during the four-day Black Friday weekend, down 11% from the previous year. However, the U.S. economy was not in a recession.
Christmas creep has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday, as many retailers now spread out their promotions over the entire months of November and December rather than concentrate them on a single shopping day or weekend.
The earliest evidence of the phrase Black Friday applied to the day after Thanksgiving in a shopping context suggests that the term originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. This usage dates to at least 1961. More than twenty years later, as the phrase became more widespread, a popular explanation became that this day represented the point in the year when retailers begin to turn a profit, thus going from being “in the red” to being “in the black”.
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time.
 In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers. In 2014, stores such as JCPenney, Best Buy, and Radio Shack opened at 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day while stores such as Target, Walmart, Belk, and Sears opened at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
 Three states—Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts—prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving, due to what critics refer to as blue laws. The Massachusetts ban on forcing employees to work on major holidays is not a religion-driven “blue law” but part of the state's Common Day of Rest Law.
 A bill to allow stores to open on Thanksgiving Day was the subject of a public hearing on July 8, 2017.
There have been reports of violence occurring between shoppers on Black Friday. Since 2006, there have been 12 reported deaths and 117 injuries throughout the United States. It is common for prospective shoppers to camp out over the Thanksgiving holiday in an effort to secure a place in front of the line and thus a better chance at getting desired items.
This poses a significant safety risk, such as the use of propane and generators in the most elaborate cases, and in general, the blocking of emergency access and fire lanes, causing at least one city to ban the practice.
 Environmentalists cite one more adverse factor: discount deals encourage people to purchase things they don't need, and this overproduction contributes to climate change.
Black Friday – November 27, 2020
Black Friday has cash registers ringing every November 27. It’s the day of the year when retailers finally start generating profit, thus going from “being in the red” to “being in the black.” Get out your pocketbook and prepare to shell out some cash, because the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year!
History of Black Friday
First, there’s Thanksgiving — a day to be grateful for all life’s blessings. The next day, Black Friday, encourages you to give way to your greed by spending as much money as possible. Welcome to the official start of the holiday season! But the story of Black Friday is full of “official” and unofficial versions of its origins, starting with the name.
Black Friday originally referred to September 24,1869 when a scheme to manipulate America’s gold markets backfired resulting in numerous bankruptcies across the country. Even more troubling is the unsubstantiated story that southern slave owners allegedly got a “good deal” if they bought slaves on the Friday after Thanksgiving — “Black Friday,” indeed!
But, the story that’s most well-known about Black Friday is that retailers marked the day when filled coffers from holiday shoppers helped businesses go from being “in the red” to “in the black.” Although popular, this story is also not quite accurate. So, what is the actual story of Black Friday? We have to go to Philadelphia for that.
Philadelphia cops complained about “Black Friday” when they were stuck working off days and overtime the day after Thanksgiving. Packed downtown streets with hordes of shoppers, tourists, and fans in town for the next day’s Army-Navy game, meant that Black Friday was a haven for shoplifters as well as a crowd-controlling nightmare for the police.
Unfortunately, the idea that Black Friday was also a retailers’ headache did not entice Philly’s shoppers.
By 1961, Philadelphia retailers decided “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” turning a negative into a positive by way of reinvention.
In the 1980s, “Black Friday” became synonymous as a day for big deals in national retail. Today, Black Friday invites you to shop ‘til you drop for the best bargains of the year.
Why Is Black Friday Called Black Friday? | Jon Miltimore
I’ve never understood Black Friday. Hoards of people scrambling to buy stuff on the busiest shopping day of the year? It sounds dreadful. Instead of lazing in gratitude with a belly full of turkey and pie, people descend on stores in the wee hours to consume more.
Still, there’s no denying Black Friday is a big deal. Last year 165 million Americans—half the population—shopped on the weekend of Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. Shoppers spent a record $6.22 billion in online sales alone. Total sales usually range from $50 to $60 billion.
Despite the holiday’s popularity, most people have no idea why Black Friday is called Black Friday.
When I started researching for this article, I was a bit fuzzy on Black Friday’s origins myself. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. My wife had no idea. I asked one wicked smaht friend. He was clueless. One young person I asked said he’d heard Black Friday stemmed from the slave trade. (For the record, that’s a myth.)
So what’s the truth? And why do so few people know the origins of a popular holiday?
First, this isn’t the only Black Friday. Several historical events were dubbed Black Friday, including the Panic of 1869, which involved the Grant Administration releasing a large supply of gold to spite speculators trying to corner the market. That’s the official version, anyway. All you really need to know is that gold prices tanked, fortunes were lost.
That has nothing to do with Thanksgiving or shopping, but it’s one reason people are confused about Black Friday. The bigger reason though is the origins of this Black Friday are organic and hazy. In fact, there are at least three competing explanations for why we call Black Friday “Black Friday.”
Black Friday as National Hooky Day
The first record we have of anyone referring to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” is found in an obscure magazine from the 1950s. It was a reference to Americans playing hooky—skipping work—on Friday so they’d have a four-day weekend.
The article, titled “What to Do about Friday After Thanksgiving,” appeared in Factory Management and Maintenance, a periodical for engineers and factory managers. It talked about the problem of people not showing up for work after Turkey Day.
“Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis” is a disease second only to the bubonic plague in its effects. At least that's the feeling of those who have to get production out, when the “Black Friday” comes along. The shop may be half empty, but every absentee was sick—and can prove it.
What to do? Many companies have tried the standard device of denying Thanksgiving Day pay to employees absent the day before and after the holiday. Trouble is, you can't deny pay to those legitimately ill.
But what's legitimate? Tough to decide these days of often miraculously easy doctors' certificates.
Basically, Black Friday was the 1950s equivalent of Monday after the Super Bowl. Everyone just called in sick. As a result, productivity tanked. Nobody really knew what to do about it, which is probably why many companies just started giving workers the day off.
Black Friday as Chaos and Exploitation
How Black Friday Got Its Name
Image by Grace Kim © The Balance 2019
The day after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season since the late 19th century when President Abraham Lincoln designated the Thanksgiving holiday as the last Thursday in November. But the day didn't earn the name “Black Friday” until much later.
In 1905, Canadian department store Eaton's began the first Thanksgiving Day parade by bringing Santa on a wagon through the streets of downtown Toronto. In 1913, eight live reindeer pulled Santa's “sleigh.” By 1916, seven floats representing nursery rhyme characters joined Santa in the parade.
In 1924, the Eaton's parade inspired Macy's Department Store to launch its famous Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Macy's wanted to celebrate its success during the Roaring '20s. The parade boosted shopping for the following day. Retailers had a gentleman's agreement to wait until then before advertising holiday sales.
In 1939, during the Great Depression, Thanksgiving happened to fall during the fifth week of November. Retailers warned they would go bankrupt because the holiday shopping season was too short. They petitioned President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the Thanksgiving holiday up to the fourth Thursday.
Unfortunately, by this time it was late October. Most people had already made their plans. Some were so upset that they called the holiday “Franksgiving” instead. Only 25 states followed FDR's move. Texas and Colorado celebrated two holidays, which forced some companies to give their employees an extra day off.
In the 1950s, people began calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving, essentially giving themselves a four-day weekend.
Since stores were open, as were most businesses, those playing hooky could also get a head start on their holiday shopping. That’s as long as the boss didn't see them.
Rather than try to determine whose pay should be cut, and who was legitimately sick, many businesses started adding that day as another paid holiday.
In 1966, the Black Friday name became famous in print. That's when a story appeared in an ad in The American Philatelist, a stamp collectors' magazine. The Philadelphia Police Department had used the name to describe the shopping chaos at downtown stores.
The number of shoppers created traffic accidents and sometimes even violence, presaging Black Friday violence to come.
At first, retailers did not appreciate the negative connotation associated with a “Black” day of the week. In fact, “Black Friday” was first associated with Friday, Sept. 24, 1869.
Two speculators, Jay Gould, and James Fisk created a boom-and-bust in gold prices. A stock market crash followed as prices fell 20%. The disruption in gold prices sent commodity prices plummeting 50%.
Corruption in Tammany Hall allowed Gould and Fisk to escape without punishment.
Another dark day, Black Thursday, occurred on Oct. 24, 1929. It was the day that signaled the start of the Great Depression. It was followed the next week by Black Tuesday. On that day, the stock market lost 12% despite attempts by major investors to support stock prices.
With all that shopping activity, the Friday after Thanksgiving became one of the most profitable days of the year. Because accountants use black to signify profit when recording each day's book entries (and red to indicate a loss), the name took.
So, Black Friday now means profitable Friday to retailing and to the rest of the economy. That's because retail and consumer spending drive almost 70% of U.S. gross domestic product. Retailers adopted the name, but this time to reflect their success. To encourage more people to shop, retailers began to offer deep discounts only available on that day.
Black Friday crowds still give the police headaches. According to data analysis by The Hustle, there have been 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries on Black Friday since 2006. Violence has become so bad The New York Daily News renamed it “Black-eye Friday.”
The worst Black Friday occurred in 2008 when a man was trampled to death at a New York Walmart. Despite being 6 feet, 5 inches tall and 270 pounds, temporary worker Jdimytai Damour died of asphyxiation when crowds stampeded into the store.
At least 2,000 people broke down the doors, trapping Damour in a vestibule where he suffocated. Eleven other shoppers were also injured, including a pregnant woman. These incidents give police the right to call Black Friday by a negative name.
- Retailers want to make Black Friday a positive event. But some shoppers, intent on getting good deals, have turned it into Black-Eye Friday.
- In recent years, the best Black Friday deals are not on Black Friday. Many retailers offer their best deals earlier.
- With the popularity of online shopping, Cyber Monday has begun to offer great deals.
- Many people also wait until Green Monday in mid-December to take advantage of last-minute bargains.
How did Black Friday get its name? The history behind the biggest sales event of the year
Wondering how Black Friday got its name? You're probably not the only one.
- Each year the famous sales weekend, which follows Thanksgiving Day and begins today – November 29 – this year, sees a significant amount of shoppers head to high street stores and online brands in attempt to find the best deals.
- Retailers including Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Argos have launched a range of offers, with discounts expected until Cyber Monday.
- Yet, many people are unaware of the phenomenon's history and are clueless about the use of the name before it became associated with the pre-Christmas shopping craze.
- From post-football game chaos in Philadelphia to the people who coined the retail event's name, here is the story behind Black Friday.
The early origins and history
- The term “Black Friday” was actually first associated with financial crisis, not sales shopping.
- Two Wall Street financiers Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, together bought a significant amount of US gold in the hope of the overall price soaring and in turn being able to sell it for huge profits.
- On Friday, September 24 1869, in what became referred to as “Black Friday”, the US gold market crashed and Fisk and Gould's actions left Wall Street barons bankrupt.
- It was not until later years that the post-Thanksgiving period became associated with the name.
Black Friday tales
When shops in the US recorded their accounting details by hand, they noted profits in black and losses in red.
It is thought that many shops were “in the red” throughout most of the year but they later “went into the black” the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers bought a significant amount of discounted merchandise.
In more recent years, an inaccurate rumour circulated, suggesting that Southern plantation owners could buy slaves at a discounted price following Thanksgiving in the 1800s.
The Telegraph's Black Friday guide | Read more
Police officers in Philadelphia were first to link Black Friday to the post-Thanksgiving period in the 1950s. Large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving for the Army-Navy football game, creating chaos, traffic jams and shoplifting opportunities.
Police officers in the city weren't able to take the day off work and instead had to work long shifts to control the carnage, thus using the term “Black Friday” to refer to it.
The Origin of Black Friday and Other Black Days
Across the United States, those who are not too replete with their Thanksgiving feast will be braving the crowds in order to secure themselves one of the bargains associated with Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, which is often regarded as the first day of Christmas shopping in the United States. Even on the Thanksgiving-less shores of Britain, we are starting to see this tradition sneak in. Hunting down bargains is all well and good, but we are much more interested in hunting down the histories of words. Which other “black days” have been marked through history, and does “black” used in this way always denote negativity?
Black Friday is seen as a day of huge profit in the world of retail, enough for some to have theorized that its origin is the day’s ability to take a company in debt, or in the red, and pull them back into the black.
This origin story may make this the first “black day” where the black is seen to be bringing positive associations, although an earlier theory holds that the name is a reference to the congestion caused in city centres particularly in Philadelphia.
This is nonetheless a step away from the disaster and ruin that has typically been carried by “black” in this context.
When Was the First Black Friday?
Though those working in customer services may wish that this year will be the last time we mark Black Friday, when was the first Black Friday? The earliest evidence for the term found by researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is from 1610.
It will surprise no one to hear that this Black Friday had very little to do with sales, or Thanksgiving. The first Black Friday did not refer to a specific Friday, but rather was used in schools to refer to any Friday on which an exam fell.
It is something of a comfort to know that, even in the 17th century, exams were regarded with that same familiar dread.
We have found no evidence from before 1951 of Black Friday referring to the day following Thanksgiving, and in this instance its sense was markedly different to how we use the term today.
In this context, instead, the day was associated with staff absences from factories following the Thanksgiving holiday.
The first citation found for Black Friday in the sense of the start of the Christmas shopping season comes ten years later, in 1961.
Which Other Fridays Have Been Black?
The moniker has been attached to a number of different Fridays in the years between 1610 and 1951.
The next one noted in the OED is Friday 6 December 1745, which was the date that the Young Pretender’s landing was announced in London.
The Young Pretender was hardly a welcome visitor, but the extent to which his proximity caused panic across the capital is a matter of debate, but this panic—real or a tool of political spin—nonetheless earned the day its dark title.
The next date to be designated a Black Friday noted in the OED was again one of widespread panic: Friday 11 May 1866, saw the failure of the London banking house Overand, Gurney, & Co.
On the very next day, it was reported in the Times, with some clairvoyance, that “The day will probably be long remembered in the city of London as the ‘Black Friday.
’” This is the first sense of Black Friday with strong financial associations, and it seems these only grow stronger into the 20th century.
The third (and last) Black Friday listed in the OED happened just three years later, on Friday 24 September 1869, when the introduction of a large quantity of government gold into the financial market precipitated a day of financial panic on Wall Street. The mid to late 1860s saw the beginning of a dramatic climb in use of the term Black Friday in both British and US varieties of English, showing the impact of these events on the language.
This is the last Black Friday to be found in the OED, but not the last day to have gained the title in popular use. The majority of those following Black Friday of 1869 echo the sense of financial ruin, or the associations “black days” also carry with loss of life.
Black Friday has two relevant meanings. In history, Black Friday was a stock market catastrophe that took place on September 24, 1869. On that day, after a period of rampant speculation, the price of gold plummeted, and the markets crashed.
But the more contemporary meaning refers to the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, which has also traditionally been a holiday itself for many employees. It is typically a day full of special shopping deals and heavy discounts and is considered as the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.
- Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving and is symbolically seen as the start of the critical holiday shopping season.
- Historically, Black Friday was also a day in 1869 in which the price of gold tanked and stock markets tumbled in response.
- Stores offer big discounts on electronics, toys, and other gifts, or at least the first opportunity for consumers to buy whatever the hottest products are.
- Also important to retailers: Cyber Monday, the first day back to work for many consumers after the long holiday weekend.
It's common for retailers to offer special promotions and open their doors during the pre-dawn hours on Black Friday to attract customers. To keep up with the competition, some retailers have gone so far as to keep their operations going on the Thanksgiving holiday, while others begin offering deals earlier during November.
Really avid bargain-hunters have been known to camp out overnight on Thanksgiving to secure a place in line at a favorite store; the most fanatical have been known to skip Thanksgiving dinner altogether and camp out in parking lots for days or even weeks to get great deals. The promotions usually continue through Sunday, and traditional brick-and-mortar stores see a spike in sales.
Retailers may spend an entire year planning their Black Friday sales. They use the day as an opportunity to offer rock-bottom prices on overstock inventory and to offer doorbusters and discounts on seasonal items, such as holiday decorations and typical holiday gifts.
Retailers also offer significant discounts on big-ticket items and top-selling brands of TVs, smart devices, and other electronics, luring customers in the hope that, once inside, they will purchase higher-margin goods. The contents of Black Friday advertisements are often so highly anticipated that retailers go to great lengths to ensure that they don't leak out publicly beforehand.
Consumers often shop on Black Friday for the hottest trending items, which can lead to stampedes and violence in the absence of adequate security. For example, on Black Friday in 1983, customers engaged in scuffles, fistfights, and stampedes in stores across the U.S.
to buy Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, that year's must-have toy, which was also believed to be in short supply.
Appallingly, a worker at a big store was even trampled to death on Black Friday in 2008, as throngs of shoppers pushed their way into the store when the doors opened.
The concept of retailers throwing post-Turkey Day sales started long before the day was actually coined “Black Friday.” In an effort to kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang and attract hordes of shoppers, stores have promoted major deals the day after Thanksgiving for decades, banking on the fact that many companies and businesses gave employees that Friday off.
So why the name? Some say the day is called “Black Friday” in homage to the term “black” referring to being profitable, which stems from the old bookkeeping practice of recording profits in black ink and losses in red ink. The idea is retail businesses sell enough on this Friday (and the ensuing weekend) to put themselves “in the black” for the rest of the year.
However, long before it started appearing in advertisements and commercials, the term was actually coined by overworked Philadelphia police officers.
In the 1950s, crowds of shoppers and visitors flooded the City of Brotherly Love the day after Thanksgiving.
Not only did Philadelphia stores tout major sales and the unveiling of holiday decorations on this special day, but the city also hosted the Army-Navy football game on Saturday of the same weekend.
As a result, traffic cops were required to work 12-hour shifts to deal with the throngs of drivers and pedestrians, and they were not allowed to take the day off. Over time, the annoyed officers started to refer to this dreaded workday as “Black Friday.”
The term quickly gained popularity and spread to store salespeople who used “Black Friday” to describe the long lines and general chaos they had to deal with on that day.
It remained Philadelphia’s little inside joke for a few decades, although it spread to a few nearby cities, such as Trenton, New Jersey.
Finally, in the mid-1990s, “Black Friday” swept the nation and started to appear in print and TV ad campaigns across the United States.
Somewhere along the way, Black Friday made the giant leap from congested streets and crowded stores to fevered shoppers fighting over parking spaces and pepper-spraying each other tussling over the last Tickle Me Elmo. When did Black Friday become the frenzied, over-the-top shopping event it is today?
That would be in the 2000s when Black Friday was officially designated the biggest shopping day of the year. Until then, that title had gone to the Saturday before Christmas.
Yet, as more and more retailers started touting “can’t miss” post-Thanksgiving sales, and the Black Friday discounts grew deeper and deeper, American consumers could no longer resist the pull of this magical shopping day.
Today, Black Friday is becoming an increasingly lengthy event—a Black Weekend. In 2013, Target announced that instead of opening its doors on Friday morning, it would start sales on Thanksgiving evening. That started a frenzy among other big box retailers: Best Buy, Kmart, and Walmart quickly followed suit.
It turns out that as Thanksgiving Day sales are growing rapidly, Black Friday sales are decreasing at just about the same pace. The primary benefit of opening on Thanksgiving: fewer shoppers out on Black Friday helping to keep the crowds smaller and the lines shorter. Still, Friday remains the busiest day, by far, of the holiday weekend.
For online retailers, a similar tradition has arisen on the Monday following Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday is seen as the unofficial start of the online holiday shopping season.
The idea is that consumers return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, ready to start shopping.
E-tailers often herald their promotions and sales prior to the actual day in order to compete against the Black Friday offerings at brick-and-mortar stores.
As a result, in terms of sales, Cyber Monday has proven to be a hit among shoppers. In 2018, Cyber Monday sales reached a new record, totaling $7.9 billion in the United States. This handily beat out Black Friday's sales, which came in at $6.2 billion.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an estimated 165.8 million consumers shopped during the 2018 holiday weekend between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, with almost all of this shopping (95%) allocated toward gifts and other holiday items. The average amount spent during the weekend was $313.
In their “Holiday 2018 Consumer Trends Report,” the NRF found that 54% of shoppers went to both brick-and-mortar stores and online sites over the 2018 Thanksgiving weekend, a jump from the 37% of shoppers who did so in 2017.
These multichannel shoppers are more valuable to retailers; they spent an average of $326 over the Thanksgiving weekend, compared to the average $233 spent by online-only shoppers and $248 spent by in-store-only shoppers.
With people spending rather hefty sums of money on this notoriously busy shopping day, the sales chalked up on Black Friday are often thought of as a litmus test for the overall economic condition of the country and a way for economists to measure the confidence of the average American when it comes to discretionary spending. Those who share the Keynesian assumption that spending drives economic activity view lower Black Friday sales figures as a harbinger of slower growth.
Some investors and analysts look at Black Friday numbers as a way to gauge the overall health of the entire retail industry. Others scoff at the notion that Black Friday has any real fourth-quarter predictability for the stock markets as a whole. Instead, they suggest that it only causes very short-term gains or losses.
However, in general, the stock market can be affected by having extra days off for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It tends to see increased trading activity and higher returns the day before a holiday or a long weekend, a phenomenon known as the holiday effect or the weekend effect. Many traders look to capitalize on these seasonal bumps.
Although “black” can allude to profitability, it is also often used to describe disastrous days in financial markets.
For example, on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the market fell precipitously, signaling the start of the Great Depression.
The largest one-day drop in stock market history occurred on Black Monday, October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted more than 22%.
The dubbing of these crashes as “black” days originated with one of the earliest stock market crashes in the U.S., in 1869. It was sparked by a ring of speculators, led by Jay Gould and James Fisk, who attempted to corner the gold market.
In early September, they bought as much bullion as they could get their hands on, causing the price of gold to skyrocket. They also enlisted the help of Abel Corbin, the brother-in-law of President Ulysses S. Grant. They wanted him to persuade the president to limit the metal's availability, which would drive its price even higher.
But their attempt to use the White House to manipulate the supply failed. When Grant learned what was happening, he ordered the U.S. Treasury to sell gold instead. The government unloaded $4 million worth, and on Friday, Sept.
24, 1869, the price of gold fell from $160 to $130 per ounce. The gold market collapsed, causing the stock market to plummet more than 20% in the next week, ruining many investors.
The day became known in financial history as Black Friday.