Why And How Black Friday Came To Be
Tobias, here the faithful CMO of Oliver Charles. If you’re an avid reader of my newsletter, The New Yak Times, then you’ll know that Black Friday is the only holiday I celebrate.
So I figured I’d take a moment and create a bit of a guide in the hope that you’ll come to love this magical holiday as much as I do.
Before we get started, it’s imperative that we get into the holiday spirit and the only way to get into the spirit of Black Friday is to purchase something that’s been discounted. Lucky for you, I have just the thing.
Say hello to the new New Yak Times Hats!
Now that you’re properly in the Holiday spirit, let’s talk about the wonderfully none controversial history of Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving when every retailer in America decides collectively to offer their biggest discounts of the year.
Why Is It Called “Black Friday”?
The phrase Black Friday has popped up many times throughout history. The earliest known use of the term Black Friday refers to when, in the 1950s, workers would call in sick the day after Thanksgiving to enjoy a four day weekend.
The phrase resurfaced in Philadelphia in the 1960s when police in the city used it to describe the large influx of pedestrian and vehicular traffic that would occur the day after Thanksgiving.
However, it wasn't widely used to describe the famed holiday shopping day until the 1980s. The day after Thanksgiving is typically the point in the year in which retailers stopped posting losses and started posting profits due to it being an abnormally large shopping day (more on that below).
In other words, retailers would go from being "in the red" to being "in the black." Thus we have Black Friday.
Why Is It The Thursday After Thanksgiving?
In reality, the day after Thanksgiving has always been one of the largest shopping days of the year, even before it was officially named. This is due to a few of factors:
- It's the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas.
- Many people have the day after Thanksgiving off from work with a holiday shopping list that’s been collecting dust.
- As far back as the 19th century, Thanksgiving parades were sponsored by department stores (think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade). These Parades marked the official start of holiday advertising and subsequent shopping.
Eventually, it became an unwritten rule that no store would advertise for the holidays until the parades were over. Thus artificially marking the start of holiday shopping on Black Friday.
It Led The Government To Change The Date (Day) Of Thanksgiving
As we said in the previous paragraph, department stores would use the parades to launch big holiday advertising pushes, leading to an unwritten rule that no one would advertise until the parades had finished.
In the 1930s, this led to some serious controversy because stores wanted a longer shopping season, but no one wanted to break the rule.
So in 1939, on the tail end of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt issued an executive proclamation that moved Thanksgiving from the 4th Thursday in November to the 3rd—giving stores an extra week to take advantage of the shopping season.
This unsurprisingly led to upheaval and was largely ignored by the public until congress reversed the proclamation in 1941. This day is often referred to as Franksgiving, a portmanteau of Franklin and Thanksgiving.
Black Friday Has Turned Into a Global Event
Over the years, the success of Black Friday in the US has led other countries around the world to try and adopt the holiday.
The emergence of the internet and online shopping has also played a large role in the adoption of Black Friday internationally. It has even taken over boxing day in Canada as the most popular shopping day in the country.
The Successful Copycats
In the US, enterprising businesses like Amazon have successfully copied the urgency and hysteria of Black Friday by creating "Prime Day", which is essentially just Black Friday but for Amazon only. In 2019, Prime Day brought in $10.4 billion in 1 day compared to the $7.4 billion brought in by Black Friday that same year.
In China, rather than Black Friday, they have "Singles Day" on 11/11. It celebrates people who are not in relationships and marks the start of the shopping season. In 2019, the two largest retailers in China, Alibaba, and JD.com, posted revenues of $63 billion in one day.
It's a Chaotic, Violent Event. Every Year!
Since 2006, 12 people have died and 117 people have been injured in the United States because of Black Friday. Many of the deaths and injuries can be attributed to people getting trampled by crazed shoppers looking for deals or fights over various products.
The popular TV show South Park produced an episode commenting on the violence associated with Black Friday that went on to be nominated for an Emmy.
Black Friday By The Numbers
155 million Americans shopped on Black Friday in 2021. The adult population of the United States stands at around 258 million people. This means that about 60% of the adult population took part in Black Friday.
In 2021 shoppers spent $8.9 billion online during Black Friday and 43% of all black friday sales happened through mobile phones.
Businesses made an estimated $30 to $40 billion in sales during the 2021 Black Friday alone.
In 2020, consumers spent an estimated $188.2 billion dollars over the course of the Black Friday weekend.
Oliver Charles’ Stance On Black Friday
Black Friday has a contentious relationship with the environment because it promotes the overproduction of cheap, poorly made products. Many of the brands we admire have come out against it.
Heck, our motto, own less, own better is directly in conflict with the whole premise of the holiday.
We consider ourselves a very sustainable brand. We are very conscious of the impact we have on the environment and work hard to minimize it at every step of the way.
We believe that this mindset is table stakes for any business. We don't believe that it has to be our entire identity.
Since we've designed our business to be sustainable from the bottom up, we're able to participate in Black Friday responsibly.
Bonus Facts About Black Friday
- The South Park neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, is the most trafficked area of the United States on Black Friday.
- In 2021, the top-selling toys were VTech toys, Amazon Echo Show, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Quest, Barbie, Hot Wheels, AirPods and X Box Series S.
- The average Black Friday discount is around 25%.
- The average shopper spends $430 on Black Friday.