Black Friday was not always the biggest shopping day of the year. It was usually the Saturday before Christmas. Since the 19th century, retailers have viewed the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to be prime shopping real estate.
Many theories exist about where the term “Black Friday” came from. A common theory about Black Friday is that it is considered a day when retailers will get out of the red and begin to make profits to close out their final quarter of the year in the black.
Originally, “Black Friday” referred to a day in 1869, after the American Civil War when the government issued a massive amount of public debt to help the reconstruction of America. Some wanted to profit from this by driving up the price of gold, hoping the government would buy it back. That plan fell through when the government instead released government gold and the price plummeted, bankrupting all who hoarded it.
The year 1939 was one that saw a change in the date of Thanksgiving. President Roosevelt passed a law to change the date of Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday to the third Thursday, allowing people more time to shop after Thanksgiving. The idea didn’t quite catch on with most consumers, so FDR repealed his decision in 1941, and Thanksgiving reverted back to the fourth Thursday.
During the 1960s in Philadelphia, the police often used “Black Friday” to refer to the hoards of shoppers who would inevitably create traffic jams. Later, retailers took the term and re-branded it as a giant shopping holiday. They would offer the best sale prices and great coupons as incentives for people to shop.
It wasn’t until 1998 that the term “Black Friday” became known as the Friday after Thanksgiving. 2002, however, saw Black Friday being the biggest shopping holiday of the year. Three years later, in 2005, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day of the year.
The purpose of Cyber Monday was for online retailers to capitalize on the after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. Online stores are open 24 hours a day and offer sales, discounts, and coupons to entice shoppers.
Recently, brick and mortar retailers started adding hours to their schedules by opening stores after dinner on Thanksgiving. Retailers hope that by doing so, they will create more business for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Some retailers have even gone so far as to force their employees to work on the holiday, threatening them with the loss of a job.
Small Business Saturday is the latest addition to the shopping frenzy after Thanksgiving. The campaign was created in 2010 by American Express to encourage consumers to shop locally, supporting small businesses.
The introduction of Small Business Saturday has helped consumers move away from some of the frenzied shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. When consumers spend money at local shops, they are putting money back into their local economy, which helps create more jobs.
Shopping holidays such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have been rivaling Black Friday for the biggest shopping day of the year. Gone are the days of people waiting until the Saturday before Christmas to start their shopping. Instead, people fight over items with limited quantities just to get a good deal.
By Kerri Cushna
Photo by Gene Han – Flickr License