why and how Black Friday came to be
Black Friday has become as real of a holiday as the one that precedes it - The celebrated day after Thanksgiving when every retailer in America decides collectively to offer their biggest discounts of the year.
Consumers far and wide line up around the block and ultimately "storm" through stores across the country searching for deals that would otherwise be unavailable.
As a new brand, we will be participating in this tradition for the first time, all while questioning why and how it came to be. Here are the seven most interesting things we learned about Black Friday.
1. 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 where 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.
2. Why 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 Black Friday.
3. The government changed the date!
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.
4. It's turned in to 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Black Friday by the numbers.
The National Retail Federation conducted a survey that found 66 million US consumers went shopping, either in-store or online, on Black Friday in 2018. That's about 27% of the adult population in the US. Throughout the whole weekend, nearly 174 million people, or 70% of the adult population, shopped online or in person. In 2019, consumers spent an estimated 24.2 billion dollars over the course of the Black Friday weekend.
- A neighborhood in North Carolina, is the most trafficked area in the US on Black Friday.
- In 2019, the top-selling toys were "Frozen 2" toys, L.O.L. Surprise toys, and Paw Patrol toys.
- In 2019, around 39% of the Black Friday shopping was done through smartphones.
- Amazon took 47.8% of all online transactions on Thanksgiving and 56.8% on Black Friday 2018