Colours Perspective

Black Friday: The “busiest” shopping day of the year’s origins

Black Friday has a more recent history of its popularity. The day comes right after American Thanksgiving on Friday and starts when the stores open at 6 a.m. or 8 a.m. The day is about shop ’til you drop, buying up all of the deals while getting ready for Christmas. The day is significant from an economic standpoint and being the first official shopping day of the year dedicated to Christmas shopping. But it is a day that has been getting more violent, chaotic, cutting into the celebration of Thanksgiving each year and the sales that are not has big has the true busiest day of the year.

When did all of this start?

The day started as a joke about having a shopping holiday after American Thanksgiving and before Football Weekend. The new meaning behind the name Black Friday would be dealing with money gains from holiday retail sales. Being in the black means having/profiting a positive amount of money. Unlike the opposite meaning would be in the red which would mean losing money. It is seen as one of the most profitable days of the year.

In the 1950s, Philadelphia police used the term to refer to the in between day Thanksgiving (Thursday) and Army-Navy game (Saturday). They had to work long hours doing crowd control and unclog traffic jams after Thanksgiving. The police had to work a 12 hour day on Black Friday. And everybody worked that day even the band members. No one was allowed a day off on Black Friday. It was two officers to a street corner and the streets were reduced down to one lane. The traffic was backed up so much that it created massive gridlocks. The phrase Black Friday was used not only as a descriptor but to discourage people from participating since the streets and the stores were very crowded. But the other reason why the name stuck around would be the amount of people who would call in sick at their jobs to go shopping like “the black plague” temporarily occurred.

After a while, retailers started to see the advantage to advertise event day sales for Christmas shopping. This was a trend that started between the 1950s to 1960s in America. On November 26th 1965, Earl Apfelbaum was reported to use the term for the first time in his advertisement for rare stamps in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In the 1980s and 1990s, it became a household name and somewhat a part of Thanksgiving celebrated worldwide often called different names. In Mexico, it’s called “El Buen Fin” which means “the good end”. And in the United Arab Emirates, they have “White Friday” which has the same type of sales like Black Friday. A lot of the classic doorcrasher deals were for VHS players, newly released toys for Christmas and home appliances for sale. The crowds in the ’80s and ’90s were not as big as today. The Boxing Day sales were promoted more than the Black Friday sales. The popularity grew in the past twenty years for people prepping for Christmas gift shopping, especially for electronics.

The alternative name for Black Friday is Big Friday. The name is rarely used in marketing. It’s called either “Black Friday Sales” or “Black Friday Deals.” The advertising for Black Friday seems to usually have big bold capital letters in front of a solid black background. Usually black and white or black and red but always having a very simple design rarely using illustrations connected to the holiday season or iconography.

The Day Could Of Had A Negative Meaning

Alternatively, the term could have been seen connected to a negative gain of money in the stock market. Names marked as black in economics were known as a day of financial loss before it was given another meaning.

One of the first and biggest was on September 24th, 1869 when two investors, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, drove up the price of gold causing an economic crash. They plotted to use stock fraud and bribery to keep Cornelius Vanderbilt from the Erie Railroad. Trade dropped 20% and farmers suffered a 50% drop in wheat and corn. It caused the collapse of the U.S. gold market and damaged the popularity of Ulysses S. Grant. This was called Black Friday. This was the first use of the term in history originally meaning a day of financial loss.

Black Thursday, Black Monday and Black Tuesday in 1929 was the day that started the Great Depression on Thursday, October 24th, 1929 to Tuesday, October 29th, 1929. Black Thursday day was also known as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash. It was known as the worst stock market crash in U.S. history. First, the market fell 2%, then on Monday it fell 13% and then was followed by a fall of 12% on Tuesday.

Black Monday in 1987, had a sudden severely large drop that shocked the global financial market system. The Dow Jones fell 22.6% in one day on October 19th, 1987.

The Modern Horror Stories from Black Friday Shopping

The day is also known for big doorcrasher sales (time limited sales usually located near the entrance doors) and one day event sales that have become a stampede of shopping violence. The day is also known for frantic shoppers, big crowds, injuries and deaths. Due to the excessive overcrowding and violent behaviour in these crowds, most people nowadays stay at home. From bad traffic to morbid fatalities, some people are finally staying home due to the negative word of mouth, news coverage of “zombie apocalypse-like” crowds and police reports of violent acts.

In 2010 New York City, it was once known has Black-Eye Friday from the New York Daily. Most people are more likely to be trampled over any other day of the year. Most Black Friday horror stories usually occur when the stores are about to open. The elderly, small children and pregnant women seem to be at risk of injury on this day. People in this frenzied fight over anything that looks like a bargain even bath towels at a Walmart in Bainbridge, Georgia in 2016.

There have been 12 deaths and 117 injuries the day saw in the United States alone. There’s a website that morbidly tracks the deaths and injuries on Black Friday called Black Friday Death Count. The hashtag #WalmartFights features a lot of fights over Christmas gifts and trampling in the retail chain placing items on sales on Twitter. There are multiple lists and articles of the deaths and injuries that do happen on this day, therefore, I’m not listing it all here or a top ten worst. Sadly, there are multiple stories about being trampled, shootings, stabbings, brawls and being maced that’s not a part of the holiday spirit and shopping in general.

Gray Thursday is the Downside of Popularity

The popularity of the sales that happen on Black Friday made some stores open earlier and earlier every year to the point that they are opening up on Thanksgiving day. Some stores are open at midnight setting up the event day sales while some other stores are just open a full 24 hours selling to customers and prepping for the day. The new opening hours seeping into Thanksgiving, essentially Thursday, is why the new phenomenon is called Gray Thursday. It’s not the main event day sales like on Black Friday but the smaller items that would be on sale for the whole weekend. For example, “Buy One Get One Free” sales that even though supplies would not really last to the end of the week but the sale would. The day is for people who want a deal in a combination of quality supplies for gifts, for instance, a sweater bought has a buy one get one free sale at the sizes that would run out quickly.

Some retail employees want this trend of opening on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales to end. They want to spend time with their families and be able to cook a Thanksgiving dinner without running to work a few hours later. I would see how this can kill moral in the work environment.

Opening Earlier Happier Note

On a happier note, most Black Friday sales (at least in Canada) have started. The sales have started one week earlier before Black Friday. The marketing is obvious “Early Black Friday” deals. It’s to the point that it looks like Black Friday already started with a similar marketing design. This could be that the start of holiday sales happened after The Annual Santa Claus Parade marketing the beginning of Christmas shopping (at least in Canada.) But this could also be due to spreading out the sales and deals for people who want to plan early without a major crowd.

The last true big deal shopping day of the year

Black Friday may have some big deals but there are a few bigger shopping events that happen before Christmas.

One is Cyber Monday which is the launch of online holiday deals usually starting on the following Monday after Thanksgiving. The day is its own thing but just like Black Friday, some sites could be flooded resulting in a website crashes. The event is just as big as Black Friday. This is the shopping event that people are reminded to make sure that websites have an SSL certificate with HTTPS. The S is for security, especially when making purchases. The term came from a research study and press release by Ellen Davis from the National Retail Federation in 2005 called “‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year.”

The other one is Green Monday which is similar to Cyber Monday but on the second Monday of December. It is an online shopping event with similar sales like Cyber Monday. The term was coined by eBay in 2007.

But it’s not Black Friday or Boxing day that is the busiest shopping day of the year but it’s a combination of two days depending on when Christmas falls on. One is the last Saturday before Christmas if the day doesn’t fall on a weekend is the busiest shopping day of the year. If Christmas does fall on a Saturday, the busiest shopping days would be December 23rd and 24th. But most likely the 23rd of December because of the day having the last long extended business hours before Christmas and last minute/bargain shopping. The malls are usually too busy with last minute shoppers, people who forgot someone or buying a gift for someone who’s spending Christmas with them unexpectedly.

If some want to give the gift of charity instead of material things there are multiple charities that give back. #GivingTuesday is a charity that was established in 2012 to give back to individuals, organizations and communities on the first Tuesday after American Thanksgiving.

Most people can not plan for the unexpected during the holiday shopping season but some planning usually helps.


References:
The Balance – What Is the History of Black Friday?
Mental Floss – A Brief History of Black Friday
The Telegraph – How did Black Friday get its name? The history behind the biggest sales event of the year
Black Friday, September 24, 1869 – PBS American Experience
Black Friday started in Philly – The Philadelphia Inquirer
How Did ‘Black Friday’ Get Its Name? – Snopes

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