Black Friday is the most famous shopping day of the year. The name is given to the day after Thanksgiving in America, and is all about bargain-hunting.
Stuffed to the gills with turkey and stuffing, American consumers descend on shopping malls around the country in search of cut-price purchases. The scale of the discounting is unprecedented — and so is the level of participation.
While the Black Friday phenomenon has reached Europe and parts of Asia, its roots are firmly planted Stateside. And the history of this manic day of shopping is fascinating.
1. Black Friday has a Canadian connection
Way back in 1905, Canadian department store Eaton’s decided to mark the day after Thanksgiving with a Santa Claus parade in the streets. This was designed to signal the start of the Christmas shopping period. The idea was picked up by Macy’s in 1924, who organised their own parade in 1924.
2. Black Friday has a darker origin
The Black Friday we all know today is nothing more than a bargain-hunter’s fantasy. However, the term was first used in 1869 to describe a famous financial crash in America. When two speculators tried to corner the gold market, the government was forced to step in and flood it with extra gold — causing the price to crash almost overnight.
3. The term was made popular in the city of Philadelphia
The term Black Friday was popularised in Philadelphia by the local press. When stores opened their doors after Thanksgiving, the discounts on offer would attract shoppers in their thousands. Congestion and pollution filled the streets for the day, and local journalists used the term to describe the misery caused to the local population. Local retailers hated the term, and tried to change it to “Big Friday”. Of course, this version didn’t stick.
4. Black Friday wasn’t the country’s biggest shopping day until quite recently
Although the term has been around for decades, Black Friday didn’t become such a huge day for retailers until 2001. Typically, the Saturday before Christmas was America’s biggest shopping day, as people liked to keep their options open until the very last minute.
5. Black Friday is now a global phenomenon
Retailers around the world have begun to use the term to describe their own November sale event. Of course, there isn’t the same cultural relevance, but the fact that people know what to expect makes it an important part of the shopping calendar around the globe. Mexico’s version in called “El Buen Fin” (The Good Weekend), while China has “Singles Day”.
6. Black Friday is dying in America
After reaching a peak in 2011, the popularity of Black Friday has been waning ever since. Not because fewer people are looking for bargains, but because more and more stores are opening their doors on the evening of Thanksgiving.
7. Retailers once changed the day of Thanksgiving and Black Friday
It was President Abraham Lincoln who first declared that a day of Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth or fifth Thursday of each month. However, when Thanksgiving fell on the final day of November in 1939, major retailers weren’t happy. Their traditional shopping season was cut shorter than ever.
Some of the biggest retailers joined forces to pressurise President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pull the day forward by a week — something he agreed to for three consecutive years. The press nicknamed the day “Franksgiving”, and for those three years, it was celebrated on different days in different states.
In 1941, Congress stepped in and wrote into law that Thanksgiving is always the final Thursday of November.