Black Friday — The best day for shopping sprees, when approximately hundreds of millions of people will go online or offline to shop, and when stores – especially retailers – will cut down their products’ prices to increase profits and welcome the festive season. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and before Christmas after all.
However, behind the merry celebration, this holiday tradition had begun not with the same positivity, but rather the opposite. In fact, the very first time this term was used was to label the US financial crisis of 1869, the day the country’s gold market crashed. Two Wall Street financiers, infamous for their ruthless scheming, collaborated and bought as much gold as possible, driving the national price for the metal, before selling it at a sky high amount. The practice simultaneously collapsed the gold market and then the stock market, causing millions to declare bankruptcy.
In addition, the moment this term began to be acquitted with sales, it was due to the chaos ensuing in Philadelphia after Thanksgiving (also known at that time as the day dreaded by Philadelphia cops). Suburbanites would come in hordes to the downtown and shop for pre-holiday items while preparing for the Army-Navy football game. Nasty traffic, additional crowds, and opportunistic shoplifters added to the law enforcement’s headache. Later, the city’s merchants tried (and failed) to remove the name. Thus was how the first time Black Friday as shopping day was introduced.
It was only in the 1980s that the negative connotation was starting to fade. Similar to what we nowadays know,the increased shopping, causing exponential rise in the sales of products, caused stores’ annual revenue to go from being in ‘red’ (loss) to ‘black’ (profit). This correlation finally helped Black Friday to shed its negative name.
In the current world, the term’s darker roots have been largely forgotten. Black Friday even morphed to events lasting more than a day, introducing the concepts ‘Small Business Saturday and Sunday’ as well as ‘Cyber Monday’, which is named after the high speed home internet and wireless connectivity that ease online transactions. People began camping out on the eve of Friday, right after their Thanksgiving Meal, as stores started opening earlier and earlier. In 2019, sales at Black Friday reached up to $142.4 Billion, while in 2020, the number shot up to $188.2 Billion.
The centuries old tradition had started violently. However, after all these events, Black Friday is finally the Black Friday we know — The zenith of holiday shopping day.
Written by Felda Everyl
Picture credited to AndLight.com
Washington Post – A Visual History of Black Friday
Sarah Pruitt – What’s the Real History of Black Friday?
Financesonline – 78 Black Friday Statistics