The history of Black Friday
4 min read
4 min read
When you think of Black Friday, you most probably imagine hoards of shoppers lining up and waiting, fighting, screaming at each other trying to get merchandise at a discounted price.
While it isn’t an official holiday, it’s globally recognized as the day when stores are packed with shoppers and retailers really looking forward to it.
But when did it all start? What’s the actual history of Black Friday? Read on to find out more about it!
Usually, when a day is preceded by the term “black”, that is an indication that it’s not such a good day after all. Black Friday had a similar, negative connotation, and the earliest use of the phrase “Black Friday” dates back to 1869. As you can probably imagine, then and there it had little to nothing to do with Christmas shopping. Black Friday in 1869 was the day when plummeting gold prices caused a market crash and triggered a financial crisis.
The first mention of Black Friday as we know it is said to have occurred around the 1950s in Philadelphia and it was coined by traffic police who absolutely dreaded this day.
According to an article in HuffPost, the Philly Police Department used this term to describe traffic jams and huge crowds of the downtown retail stores. The first uses of this term in print appeared in an ad in a 1966 issue of The American Philatelist, a magazine for stamp collectors.
An archived excerpt of this ad appears in a thread on The Linguist List, an online forum operated by the Indiana University Department of Linguistics:
“Black Friday” is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. “Black Friday” officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.
The local police, however, weren’t the only ones who absolutely loathed this day. The sales personnel to customers ratio added to the frustration with it, as it was a frequent custom for the sales associates to call in sick on this day with the aim to extend their holiday weekend.
It doesn’t come off as a surprise that retailers weren’t happy with the use of this gloomy term to describe one of their biggest revenue days so they decided to put a positive spin on it. In order to change the public’s perception of this day, they tried to change its name from Black to “Big Friday” in an effort to solidify its reputation as a day of family fun and shopping.
Big Friday didn’t stick but continuous efforts to associate this day with something positive eventually paid off. Today, most consumers associate Black Friday with the black-colored ink retailers use to note revenue from increased sales, opposed to the red ink they use when things aren’t going that well.
Black Friday is a terrific day for retailers but it has always represented a somewhat dark side of consumerism, too. Frenzied crowds fighting over discounted merchandise have resulted in violence, injuries, and even deaths. Although shoppers probably won’t have to deal with overcrowded stores and jammed roads this year as we continue battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the financial devastation experienced by businesses will surely cast an element of gloom over this day.
Even with the vaccine available, the world is still in crisis mode and it’s questionable whether this Black Friday will look like a pre-pandemic Black Friday would.
This years’ Black Friday is likely to be drastically different from previous years and a vast majority of Black Friday will stay confined to the digital world as retailers try to find new and innovative ways to engage consumers, deliver on their promises, and minimize the downsides linked to the “new normal” in the Covid-19 world.
This year, Black Friday falls on November 26th and we are looking forward to seeing how it will all go down. Naturally, we will be sharing statistics of the 2021 Black Friday shopping mania here on our blog, so stay tuned!
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