Around this time of year, you may have heard several times the term Black Friday in reference to a shopping day or type of sales event at some of your favourite stores. Many countries have incorporated a kind of ‘light’ version of this promotional sales practice but are you aware of the origins of this day and what it all means? That is the topic of our blog this time around.
There have been many historical events referred to as ‘Black Friday’. The start of the Great Depression in the US due to the largest Stock Market crash ever seen, several infamous historical terrorist atrocities and natural disasters have also been referred to as Black Friday. But there is only one Black Friday that is an annual event that passionate and determined shoppers plan for weeks in advance. We are talking about the Black Friday that comes after Thanksgiving Day in America – the last Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving in the US is a national bank holiday and families meet up to eat turkey and mashed potatoes and talk about what they are grateful for in the year that will be shortly coming to a close. It is the last big holiday before the insanely commercial Christmas season starts.
For this reason, the very next day (a Friday) is typically regarded as the first official day of the Christmas shopping season and really keen folks will start their shopping as early as possible to get a head start or even just get it all out of the way. They choose this day to get in to those shops and have it done with.
Retailers were very quick to try and exploit this by offering very lucrative deals and amazing sales offers on products and this led to must-have merchandise flying off the shelves. To make matters even worse shops started opening earlier and then earlier and even earlier. What was originally a reasonable 6am start to the shopping day quickly led to 4am, 2am and then eventually even midnight of Thanksgiving Day. These earlier start times were also instigated by the enormous queues that would normally form outside of the stores – lengthy line-ups of anxious customers who just had to get their products before their rivals in line did – and shelves would empty quickly!
Over the years this would somehow provoke epic scenes of aggression and outright violence as customers clambered, sprinted and snatched products right out of each other’s clutching hands. Countless clips and CCTV camera footage are put online each year showing the utter chaos as the stores open their doors to what looks like stampeding cattle.
People are regularly injured or taken to the hospital and then there are the stories which are honestly the stuff of urban legends – people claiming to have seen weapons being drawn, pepper spray used and all manner of treachery just to get their hands on those incredible bargains.
No one is certain if the term is meant in a derogatory fashion to describe the sheer calamity that occurs on that particular day. Many retailers do not like the negative connotation and have suggested that the terms actually come from the old accounting practice of regarding debt or expenses in red ink (hence the term ‘being in the red’) and black ink to represent positive income or ‘profit’ – being ‘in the black’. Black Friday is a day with such high profit margins so the term Black Friday might have derived from that.
Regardless of the term’s origins, Black Friday is a growing phenomenon globally and the Internet has all kinds of bargains to be found marketed as Black Friday sales. What a great way to keep yourself safe and avoid the crowds. Just do your Christmas shopping online. Anyway, hope you all get your holiday shopping done and find all the good buys you can handle.
Is Black Friday celebrated in your country in any official way? Tell us about in the comments below.
Get a head start = to be before other people
To clamber = To climb using hand and feet (often over someone or something)
Sheer calamity = absolute disaster