What Is Black Friday - History of the Holiday Shopping Phenomenon
The Department Store Model: Holiday Shopping in the Early to Mid-20th Century
The day after Thanksgiving was a natural time for shoppers to head into town and hit the department store. Most families were still together from the prior day’s feast, and few middle-class folks were required to work.
Big-city shopping districts were anchored by department stores. Department stores sold clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, home goods, appliances, and much more.
With a single visit to a department store and a few side trips to specialty retailers, you could take care of your entire holiday shopping list in a single day.
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.
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.
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.
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’.