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The term “Black Friday” is a colloquialism for the Friday following Thanksgiving in the United States. This is a traditional time in the United States for the start of the Christmas shopping season. Many stores offer highly promoted sales at highly discounted prices and often open early, sometimes as early as midnight, or even on Thanksgiving. Several stores continue their sales to the following Monday (“Cyber Monday”) or even for a full week (“Cyber Week”).
There is no doubt that in the United States, Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Etymology of black Friday
The adjective ‘black’ has been applied to days where calamities occurred for centuries. Although many events have been referred to as “Black Friday”, it has been noted that the most significant such event in American history occurred during the Panic of 1869, when financiers Jay Gould and James Fisk took advantage of the Grant Administration’s connections and attempted to corner the gold market using their connections with the Grant Administration. As soon as President Grant learned of this manipulation, he ordered the Treasury to release a large supply of gold, which halted the run, causing prices to drop by 18%. This was a very profitable day for the Treasury, and the president’s own brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, suffered huge losses.
There was an early usage of the term “Black Friday” in November 1951, when the journal, Factory Management and Maintenance, used the term to refer to the day after Thanksgiving, and again in 1952. In this case, the term refers to the practice of workers calling in sick after Thanksgiving in order to have a four-day weekend. However, this use doesn’t seem to have caught on. The police in Philadelphia and Rochester began using the terms “Black Friday” and “Black Saturday” around that time in order to describe the crowds and traffic congestion that were associated with the beginning of the Christmas shopping season around the same time. It was in 1961, the city and merchants of Philadelphia attempted to improve conditions, and a public relations expert suggested rebranding the days to “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday,” but the words were quickly forgotten about.
In the New York Times, where it is still used to refer to “the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year” in Philadelphia, the phrase was first used on November 29, 1975. Even though it became more widespread in 1985, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that retailers in Cincinnati and Los Angeles were still unaware of the term, despite the fact that it quickly became more widely known.
As the phrase gained national attention in the early 1980s, merchants objecting to the use of a derisive term to refer to one of the most important shopping days of the year suggested an alternative derivation to the phrase. The retail industry is traditionally known for operating at a financial loss for most of the year (January through November) but to make their profit only during the holiday season, which begins the day after Thanksgiving.
When this was
recorded in the financial records, once common accounting practices would use red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts. According to this theory, Black Friday marks the beginning of the period when retailers are no longer “in the red,” but instead are earning their profit for the year. In November of 1981, this explanation was first
published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and it can be found in the journal The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the early 21st century there have been attempts by U.S.-based retailers to introduce the concept of retail “Black Friday” to other countries around the world. Retailers outside of the United States have attempted to promote the day in order to remain competitive against online retailers based in the United States.
Over the past few decades, global retailers have adopted the term and date of the holiday season in order to market their own sales during this period.
History of black Friday
Since 1952, the day following Thanksgiving has been
seen as the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the United States. The practice may have been
inspired by the concept of Santa Claus parades. In addition to the parades celebrating Thanksgiving, there is usually an appearance by Santa at the end of the parade, as the concept is that Santa has arrived or “Santa is just around the corner” as Christmas is always the next major Christian holiday following Thanksgiving.
Department stores sponsored many Santa and Thanksgiving parades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Toronto Santa Claus Parade has been
held in Toronto, Canada, since 1905, originally sponsored by Eaton’s, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been
held in Manhattan, New York City, since 1924, sponsored by Macy’s. During the parades, department stores would launch a massive advertising campaign for the holidays. Over time, it became an unwritten rule that no store would advertise Christmas before the parade was over. As a result, the day after Thanksgiving became the day when the Christmas shopping season became officially established.
As Thanksgiving has been related to Christmas shopping for over a century, it was polarizing in the 1930s. Retail stores wanted to have a longer shopping season, but no store wanted to break with tradition and be the one to start advertising before Thanksgiving. As a result, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a presidential proclamation that established Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November rather than the last Thursday, which in some years could have been one week earlier, thus extending the shopping season for Christmas. In spite of the fact that most people adopted the President’s change, which was later
reinforced by an act of Congress, many continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the traditional date and some started referring to the new date as Franksgiving.
In 2015, Amazon.com was the first company to offer “Black Friday in July” deals on what it called “Prime Day”, promising better deals than that offered on Black Friday. Amazon repeated the practice in 2016 and 2017, and other companies followed suit in 2017.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, analyst Marshal Cohen of The NPD Group claimed in 2020, Black Friday is declining in favor of online shopping, which has accelerated this trend. Due to the pandemic, holiday deals were also
extended over a longer period of time, even as early as October. Fewer people shopped in person on Black Friday 2020, and most of the business took place online. According to Numerator, clothing, tools, and other items considered non-essential during lockdowns were not
promoted as heavily during lockdowns, since there were less items to sell, so fewer people were able to buy them. According to Adobe Analytics,
online sales in 2020 will reach $9 billion, which is a 22% increase over the previous year. RetailNext reported a 48% decrease in foot traffic to stores in 2020, while Sensormatic Solutions reported a 52% decline.
A number of retailers have been pushing their opening times on Black Friday earlier and earlier over the years,
eventually reaching midnight, before opening on Thanksgiving evening. To ensure that consumers would be able
to avoid Black Friday traffic on Thanksgiving and return home in time for dinner with their families,
Kmart’s manager, Freddy Moss, opened the store at 7 P.M. on Thanksgiving in 2009. As a result, a number of retailers began opening at 8 PM or 9 PM in the following years,
a practice known as “Black Thursday”. The trend has continued in subsequent years, with some stores opening earlier and earlier on
Thanksgiving, or remaining open all day, beginning in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day. Some retail and media sources now refer to this holiday as “Gray Thursday” or “Brown Thursday.”.
The 2014 “Black Thursday” sales were generally a failure, as overall sales for the holiday week-end fell 11% compared
to the previous year, despite a high volume of people visiting the stores on Thanksgiving night,
despite heavy traffic. The response from retailers was to go back to closing on Thanksgiving in 2015, and Walmart,
despite its firm decision to open on the holiday and to hold its sale, also announced that it would offer
its same deals online to customers who wished to stay at home during the holiday.
Retailers have received pushback from some consumers over the decision to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day. There are numerous reasons why shoppers oppose stores opening on Thursday,
including the perceived over commercialization of Thanksgiving, the fact that retail workers are not able to spend
Thanksgiving with their families, and the fact that doorbuster sales force consumers to sacrifice spending
Thanksgiving evening with their families in order to get high-demand items that might not be available again
until Christmas if they don’t take advantage of Thursday’s doorbuster sales.
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