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A History of Black Friday

Posted on the 21 November 2012 by Periscope

Falling the day after Thanksgiving, ‘Black Friday’ has become synonymous with the start of the Christmas shopping season: on-the-day deals and rock-bottom retail prices. The term was originally coined by Philadelphia police in the 1960s to describe the increase in traffic and bad behavior habitually seen the day after Thanksgiving. Over the next 15 years, the notion of Black Friday was adopted nationwide – also being used to refer to the time of year when retailers saw their books move out of the red and into the ‘black’ – from loss in to healthy profit.

Though Black Friday is often cited as ‘the busiest shopping day of the year, since 1993’, this really only really became the case 10 years later, in 2003 – until then, the busiest shopping day of the year was the Saturday before Christmas. Even now, critics still dispute this claim: the National Retail Federation maintains that while Black Friday may indeed be the busiest day in terms of visitor rates for malls and stores, it still does not generate the greatest number of sales.

Despite the fact that Black Friday is not officially a holiday, many businesses give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving weekend.  Retailers, of course, often have to increase the number of sales assistants they employ during this period, to cater to increased customer demands.

While Black Friday has very much become a part of the run-up to Christmas, and is strongly associated with the Thanksgiving period, it is a concept that has only really grown in popularity over the past decade. Until recently, shops kept their regular opening times; only in the 2000s were these extended backwards first to 6 a.m., then 5 a.m., and 4 a.m. In 2011, a handful of stores decided to open at the stroke of midnight. These so-called ‘doorbuster’ promotions are aimed at customers looking for the best deals and most sought-after items, for those who are prepared to shop through the night. Likewise, closing times were gradually extended to keep up with demand, as frantic shopping trips blighted by long queues and bad traffic began to take more and more time.

Online shopping – with its avoidance of packed stores, long car journeys, and disappointment over empty shelves – has, therefore, become a popular choice for Black Friday consumers. The widespread adoption of mobile devices has meant that potential shoppers can now buy what they want, wherever they are: on the road, visiting friends and family, or indeed from the comfort of their own homes. The availability of goods is easily checked online via a tablet or smartphone, and if one store has run out of stock, another is only a click – rather than a nerve-wracking car trip – away.

Indeed, the growing popularity of online shopping led to the introduction of ‘Cyber Monday’ in 2005 – a day dedicated to technology promotions and online deals for shoppers who were either too busy to physically shop over Thanksgiving, could not find what they wanted, or may have only just received their pay check.

Like store opening hours and methods of shopping, the popularity of certain products has also shifted significantly over time: from furniture and jewellery, to VCRs and TVs, and more recently Black Friday tablet deals. Consumer preferences are constantly changing with fashion and technological innovations. Retailers try to stay attuned to this, and will often be seen attempting to underbid each other on the most popular products – especially electronics like laptops, tablets and televisions.

If recent trends are any indication, Black Friday 2012 is set to grow further still. Now it’s up to you to decide how best to take advantage of all that’s on offer!



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