The United States celebrates two events on a weekend this November – Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. After giving thanks for the bounty you have received for the year, you spend most of your hard-earned cash the following day, typically called Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping events of the year, which is a prelude to Christmas shopping. Today, people correlate Black Friday to the start of the Christmas (shopping) season, at least in the United States. While not a federal holiday, several states in the U.S. observe it as a holiday and with many people enjoying the day off, the number of shoppers increases each year.
The shopping holiday is not a uniquely American event as more countries now celebrate the day. We'll discuss that in a bit.
Black Friday's history and evolution
Would you believe that the first time the term Black Friday was used, it referred to a financial crisis in the U.S.? The event, which occurred on September 24, 1869, was the day the U.S. gold market crashed. The cause of the crash was the machination of two financiers from Wall Street namely, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould. They bought up as much of the U.S. gold as they could because they wanted to drive the price of gold as high as possible. It was because they were thinking of the profits they would earn when they sell the commodity. The event occurred on a Friday. When the conspiracy was revealed, the stock market went into a free-fall and sent people from almost all walks of life into bankruptcy.
In 1961, the term became related to shopping for the first time. The day after Thanksgiving was already a huge shopping day and police officers in Philadelphia referred to the day as Black Friday due to the horrendous traffic jams created by the multitude of shoppers. One of the most experienced municipal PR persons, Abe S. Rosen, Deputy City Representative, recommended that they have a more positive approach to the day, suggesting that it be called Big Friday and the following day as Big Saturday. However, the term Black Friday stuck and in 1975, Philadelphia's bus drivers and police officers called it Black Friday.
In the past, Black Friday was on the last Friday of November, but the merchants lobbied to have the date fixed on the fourth Friday of November so retailers and shoppers would have a longer period to plan and do their shopping not only on Black Friday but the rest of the Christmas shopping season.
More deals and extended shopping hours
Black Friday became the year's busiest shopping day starting in 2005. Retailers offered more shopping deals as they extended their operating hours. In the latter part of the 2000s, many retailers across the U.S. moved their opening hours to 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. for increased revenues. In 2011, several shops including Target, Macy's, Kohl's and Best Buy opened their stores at midnight on Black Friday.
Retailers tried to outdo each other. In 2011, Walmart and other stores opened as early as 8:00 pm on Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day. Two years later, Walmart opened earlier, starting the Black Friday shopping event at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. Other retailers followed Walmart's opening hours.
Kmart earned flak from many consumers when they announced that they would start the Black Friday shopping holiday as early as six in the morning of Thanksgiving. Other states prohibit stores from opening during Thanksgiving Day but allow them to open their stores at midnight for the Black Friday sale.
Why do retailers extend their operating hours on Black Friday? It's simply for economic reasons! Walmart, for example, can generate sales of up to $5 billion on that day alone.
Are there drawbacks? For sure there are. Because the retailers offer huge discounts, they attract aggressive crowds, all wanting to avail of the lucrative deals. Some shoppers are trampled on as waves of people rush to get an item. Shootings and assaults are also common. Likewise, it is a grueling day for employees, as they have to work long hours and fight huge crowds of shoppers during the Black Friday sale. In all probability, shoppers have to wake up early to be the first in line before the stores open their doors. Who can resist the huge discount given on an item they've been eyeing for almost the entire year?
Black Friday madness
It's typical for many holidays to be shared by other nations, such as anniversaries, memorials and historical events. Some have cultural and cultural significance. But it is rare for a capitalist event to be celebrated in many countries around the world.
For example, Singles' Day is a huge sales event in China that is also observed today in several parts of East and Southeast Asia. But the extensive reach of the Internet allowed more people around the globe to join the Singles' Day shopping event. But other countries do not celebrate Singles' Day in particular, if you notice. They are just after the discounts being offered online and offline.
The situation is different with Black Friday sale. Several countries celebrate Thanksgiving Day but the date may or may not be the same as the date it is observed in the U.S. But most of these nations normally do not have a Black Friday sale after Thanksgiving.
However, the lure of mass sales (and disposing of old inventory) and collaboration of shoppers in various communities were too attractive for international retailers not to pursue. So now, the Black Friday madness is celebrated in over 20 other countries. Their celebration may have some variations and the dates may differ, but overall, the U.S. version of Black Friday becomes the template for the huge shopping holiday. Countries that joined the Black Friday bandwagon from 2006 to 2017 are the following:
- Costa Rica
- Middle East
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
Maybe it is safe to note that shoppers who fight their way into shops during Black Friday do not know where the name originated. Some may not even care. Probably the only thing that matters for them is to be the first in line to grab the discounted items they've wanted to purchase for so long.
You can only guess the reasons why these countries started their own version of Black Friday. And more countries follow the trend each year. Maybe they want their own citizens to spend their money internally rather than spending it overseas. Maybe they want to get people in the mood for the holiday season. It seems that while people are enjoying their own version of Black Friday, some of them still fly to the United States to experience the great sale in the country where it all started.
Black Friday statistics
Retail stores in the United States cannot resist the big numbers Black Friday sales bring to them. The National Retail Federation (NRF) released some statistics and projections for this year. Although the growth will not be sizeable this year, it's still going to be huge, with a forecast of 4.3% and 4.8%, which is much better than the 3.9% record as a five-year average.
Holiday shopping, from Black Friday until Christmas time is expected to provide seasonal employment for about 585,000 to 650,000 workers, with Amazon, Target and Macy's leading the list of retailers who will be hiring additional staff.
In terms of revenue, NRF forecasts that sales from November to December this year will reach $717.5 billion. The NRF predicts that each shopper will be spending $1,007.24 in 2018. Traditionally, Black Friday and holiday shoppers will be spending more on clothes, electronics, shoes, cosmetics, appliances, gifts, toys, books, sporting goods and underwear.
Now that you've learned more about the origin of Black Friday and how it spread to other countries, are you ready for it? A word from the wise: Make a list and don't overspend. Nevertheless, enjoy your Black Friday Shopping. If you like to shop but hate the crowd, you can always shop online.
Happy Black Friday shopping everyone!
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