Black Friday - a Brief History

A brief amount of research finds that the earliest evidence of the phrase “Black Friday” originated in the USA in Philadelphia, where it was used by police to describe the heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. This usage dates to at least 1961.

Black Friday is now an informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

Black Friday is not an official holiday in the USA, but California and some other states observe "The Day After Thanksgiving" as a holiday for state government employees.  It is sometimes observed in lieu of another federal holiday, such as Columbus Day. In addition, many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off.  Combined with the following regular weekend, this makes Black Friday weekend a four-day weekend.   This stretch of days off tends to increase free time, and therefore the number of potential shoppers.

Black Friday has become the busiest shopping day of the year, creating fear-of-missing-out.   Each year new stories resurface at this time, portraying shopper hysteria and shortages of stock.  Stock outs occasionally lead to struggles and violence.

In the late 2000s stores began opening earlier and earlier, and many had crept to 5:00am or 4:00am, and some even crept to 3:00am. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time.

One adverse factor to consider:  discount deals encourage people to purchase things they don't need, and this overproduction contributes to climate change.

On the financial front, historically retailers operated at a financial loss for most of the year (January through November) and made their profit during the holiday season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving.  When this was recorded in the financial records, once-common accounting practices would use red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts.  Black Friday, under this theory, is the beginning of the period when retailers would no longer be "in the red", instead taking in the year's profits in a short period, finally “in the black”.

Before the advent of Black Friday in Canada, the most comparable holiday was Boxing Day in terms of retailer impact and consumerism.  Black Fridays in the USA seem to provide deeper or more extreme price cuts than Canadian retailers, even for the same international retailer.   The year 2012 saw the biggest Black Friday shopping spree to date in Canada, as Canadian retailers embraced it wholeheartedly in an attempt to keep shoppers from travelling across the border.

Enjoy your Black Friday, stay calm, stay safe and be kind. 😊