Sometime in the early 20th century, “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving, became the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and the shopping craze has continued to escalate.
In 2005, “Black Friday” overtook the last Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.
According to a National Retail Federation 2011 survey, 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites over “Black Friday” weekend, on average each spending $398.62, for a record $52.4 billion.
“Black Friday” marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and many non-retail businesses give employees the day off. Retailers take advantage of this large pool of potential “Black Friday” shoppers with a number of marketing and promotional techniques to get shoppers in the store or online and to buy now.
Early and late bird specials and door-busters appeal to people willing to get up before the crack of dawn or stay up late and wait in line for hours and hours to obtain an item for an extremely low price.
Advertising exceptionally low prices on certain items helps draw shoppers into the store where they may buy additional minimally discounted or regularly priced merchandise.
Offering specials at certain times helps create a sense of urgency for shoppers to buy now. Limiting the number of items available at a special price works the same way.
Coupons, buy-one-get-one-free, cash cards for making purchases, free delivery, etc. offer something for everyone.
Numerous “Black Friday” websites have ads, store locations and hours, special deals, and even tips on how to plan an effective “Black Friday” shopping excursion.
Where did the Term “Black Friday” Originate?
The term “Black Friday” has several reported origins as well as reinterpretations.
- 1869: A non-shopping version originated from a stock market crash that occurred on September 24, 1869, a “Black Friday”.
- 1951: A magazine article in “Factory Management and Maintenance” magazine referred to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” due to a large increase in worker absenteeism.
- 1966: Due to traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks caused by huge crowds shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Philadelphia Police Department started calling it “Black Friday”. It took several decades for the term to spread across the country.
- 1981: Retailers did not like the negative connotation of the term “Black Friday”, and put forth an alternative explanation related to the accounting practice of recording losses in red and profits in black. “Black Friday” was then said to be the day retailers moved into “the black” and started turning a profit. About the same time the term “Black Friday began to be used by overworked and harried retail workers.
- 1992: Artist Ted Dave initiated “Buy Nothing Day” which is now promoted by online magazine Adbusters via downloadable posters and suggested activities like credit card cut up, zombie walk, and whirl-mart.
- 2005: Shop.org initiated “Cyber Monday” to encourage online shopping.
- 2010: “Black Friday” began to bleed into Thursday as retailers offered promotions on Thanksgiving Day, which some media sources referred to as “Gray Thursday”. American Express initiated and promoted “Small Business Saturday” to encourage shoppers to support local retailers.
Author’s Soap Box (Opinion)
I will stipulate I have enjoyed shopping as a recreational activity, and I am not opposed to shopping for items on sale or getting a good deal. Like many people I enjoy giving gifts especially when I think of or find something unique or special. When our kids were little, we liked coming up with gift ideas and there were a few occasions when we really “nailed it”.
However, I don’t think I have ever knowingly shopped on “Black Friday” and now I purposely do not shop on “Black Friday”. If the whole coming up with a list of stuff to buy, finding a parking place (perhaps multiple times), massive crowds, standing in line (again multiple times), dealing with impatient and sometimes rude shoppers and / or workers, and fighting the traffic home, wasn’t enough to keep me away. The negative environmental aspect of pollution from vehicles on the road, energy used by stores open extra hours, junk food consumed by shoppers, and waste created, would be.
“Black Friday” is now encroaching on Thanksgiving Day, and the whole holiday shopping thing just seems out of control and people even more stressed out than ever. For what? To buy more stuff that most of us don’t need and sometimes don’t even want.
Perhaps this is a good time to pause and think about what we are doing? How about actually enjoying the time we have with friends and family at Thanksgiving versus gearing up for an exhaustive day of shopping. Or just taking time for ourselves to relax and do something we enjoy (besides shopping).
Black Friday Shopping — Just Say No
- Adbusters Media Foundation – “Buy Nothing Day”
- National Retail Federation – Black Friday Weekend Shines as Shoppers Line Up for Deals, Spend Record $52 Billion, November 27, 2011
- Wikipedia – “Black Friday”