Why Black Friday Is “Black” - Deepstash

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What Is Black Friday - History of the Holiday Shopping Phenomenon

Why Black Friday Is “Black”

Black Friday wasn’t a great day for the police departments in mid-20th-century Philadelphia. By the 1960s, locals had taken to calling the chaotic day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday.”

In 1950s Philadelphia, Thanksgiving weekend was a mob scene. The Army and Navy college football teams celebrated their fierce rivalry each year with a neutral-ground clash in Philly on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The day before, thousands of people from surrounding communities – as well as Army or Navy devotees from farther afield – flooded the city in anticipation of the big game. They took the opportunity to stock up on clothes, home goods, and other giftable items at central Philly’s many retail shops and department stores.

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Black Friday has two relevant meanings
Black Friday has two relevant meanings
  • In history, Black Friday was a stock market disaster that happened on September 24, 1869, when, after a period of uncontrolled speculation, the price of gold crashed, and th...
Black Friday and retail spending
  • Retailers may spend an entire year planning their Black Friday sales. They use this event as their chance to offer special prices on overstock inventory and discounts on seasonal items, such as typical holiday gifts.
  • Retailers also offer significant discounts on top-selling brands of TVs, smart devices, and other electronics, tempting customers in the hope that, once inside, they will purchase higher-margin goods.
  • Consumers often shop on Black Friday for the hottest trending items, which can lead to stampedes and violence in the absence of adequate security.
"In the Black"

There is a theory stating that, when it comes to "Black Friday", the term "black" refers to being profitable, which comes from the old bookkeeping practice of recording profits in black ink and losses in red ink.

Retail businesses should be able to sell enough on this Friday (and the ensuing weekend) to put themselves "in the black” for the rest of the year.

The wholesome story of Black Friday
The wholesome story of Black Friday

The wholesome story of Black Friday is that happy shoppers would flood local shops and malls the day after Thanksgiving, and the extra spending would put retailers "in the black" for the ...

The real origin of Black Friday
  • Before retail repackaged Black Friday, it had a more sinister meaning. The earliest use of the phrase Black Friday dates to 1869. It was the day gold prices plummeted and caused a market crash. The economic effects lasted for years.
  • Traffic police coined the phrase Black Friday around the 1950s in Philadelphia. It was used to describe the traffic jams and intense crowding of the downtown retail stores that occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving day.
  • Local police were not the only ones who dreaded the day. The ratio of salespeople to customers added to the problem as sales associates frequently called in sick on this day to extend their Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Adding a positive spin to Black Friday

Retailers wanted to put a positive spin on the gloomy term "Black Friday."

One well-known PR executive recommended adopting a positive approach that would convert Black Friday to Big Friday. The name didn't stick, but a positive spin on the day eventually paid off.

The Intense Crowding After Thanksgiving
The Intense Crowding After Thanksgiving

In 1960's, the Philadelphia Police Department became so frustrated with the overflowing streets, traffic jams and regular fights caused by the crowds of people that visited the...

Reimagining The Black Friday Frenzy

Retailers weren’t that happy with the name "Black Friday" at first: it was associated with the Great Depression of the 1930s, signaled by Black Thursday, so they tried to reinvent the image of the Black Friday frenzy.

The ‘black’, it was argued, referred to the ledgers used by retailers. For the majority of the year, shops would be ‘in the red’ (losing money) but Black Friday indicated the moment when most retailers would start making a profit, or going ‘in the black’.