Where Did Black Friday Come From? – The Origin the Shopping Culture

where did black Friday come?

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What do you think of when you hear Black Friday? Is it the massive sales, cut prices, shopping carts filled with toys and electronics, or stampeding people storming through the local Walmart? Everyone has his or her own picture of what Black Friday is. Most of us have heard of the famous, unofficial shopping day. As soon as Thanksgiving ends, the Christmas season begins. Shop ads are hard to miss, and Christmas music is everywhere. Black Friday is the beginning. It starts our holiday shopping season. Do you know why, though?

It may feel like Black Friday has always been there, but this isn’t necessarily true. It did have its start somewhere, and it has changed significantly since then. If you have ever wondered, where did Black Friday come from and how did it get its name, we have the story for you. 

What Is Black Friday?

So, what is Black Friday? It’s pretty common knowledge that the Christmas shopping season is the busiest of the entire year. Some people save up just to make sure that they can buy gifts for their loved ones. For decades now, Black Friday is known as the day that starts the season. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving and is known for having reduced prices on a range of items. Since it’s common for most retailers to offer Black Friday deals, nearly everything that you can imagine goes on sale.

The term Black Friday has been around for a long time, but not quite as long as the day after Thanksgiving has been synonymous with the  first day of the holiday shopping season. Shoppers have been interested in snapping up the best bargains possible for a long time. 

black friday shop

Do We Need Black Friday?

There was a saying back in the 1970s and 1980s about how retailers would be in the red zone all year, until the Christmas shopping season, and then they would be in the black. This refers to making a profit only around the holiday season. Now, some people claim that that is where the term Black Friday comes from, but as we’ll explain later on, that isn’t the case.

Still, Black Friday is a major shopping holiday. No doubt, this is where you can find some of the best deals of the year. Not only is it great for shoppers, but retailers turn a huge profit, bigger than they see all year. This is all in part to their sales and also the advertisements and hype surrounding Black Friday. That’s not to say that every deal offered on Black Friday is great. Remember, just because an item says it’s on sale, it doesn’t mean that it really is. When it comes down to it, Black Friday can be worth taking advantage of if you know what you’re looking for.

In terms of electronics, toys, video games and household wares, their prices drop dramatically. On the other hand, clothes and jewelry tend to be close to the same price, or at least close to other deals that you can find any time of year. If you’re interested in a seriously marked down television or the hottest game for half the price, then Black Friday is worth it.

What’s interesting is that it not only impacts the customer and the business, but it often goes to show how the economy is faring in general. For instance, stores make about 30 percent of their revenue between Black Friday and Christmas. When the economy is down, there are fewer consumers and so you see less shoppers. As the shoppers return to the market, it is usually a good sign that the economy is at least getting better and people are shopping again.

Black Friday is crucial for stores for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, it is a considerable source of revenue, they make a substantial profit and it tends to be the most money earned all year round. While that’s good for obvious reasons, having Black Friday sales every year gives customers a pattern to follow. It makes it easy for consumers to know when the deals are going to be and businesses and customers can use that model to their advantage.

So, on a personal level, whether or not Black Friday is a necessary shopping holiday is all up to you. If you would rather bow out and not take part, then naturally it won’t seem necessary. However, when it comes to businesses and the shopping season in general, it tends to be an important day. How you spend Black Friday is all up to personal preference. When it comes down to it, the day is not for everyone.  However, it does manage to help businesses and consumers alike. 

What Is the History of Black Friday?

Popular culture makes Black Friday famous. Can you imagine a time before it? Most people can’t and while part of that is because it has been around for so long, it’s also hard to think that there were times where people didn’t utilize the day after Thanksgiving for holiday shopping. This hasn’t always been the case. When we think of the day after Thanksgiving, we imagine the cars stacked up over our line of sight with TVs and electronics. We imagine people stampeding through the doors and fighting over the latest toy. There are a lot of images that come with Black Friday shopping. Some are negative and some are positive.

For instance, some families take advantage of the time that they get to spend together in the malls and retailers, shopping for gifts for one another. For many families, it’s a tradition that’s been going on since the 1990s. Black Friday is by no means a new concept, but most people don’t know where it came from or how different modern Black Friday is. Before Thanksgiving even hits, there are already ads on TV and ads online. You can look up what is going to be on sale a month in advance, in some cases. With Black Friday being everywhere before the holiday season, it does raise some questions. When did the day after Thanksgiving become an unofficial shopping holiday? In addition, why do we call it Black Friday?

The great thing about these questions is that there are answers to them. There is a complete documented history of the title, the purpose and how Black Friday has evolved in US culture. 

black friday origin

Macy’s Parade

History tends to attribute the beginning of Black Friday to the Macy’s Day Parade. The parade started in 1924, and nowadays, people flock to their TVs on Thanksgiving to watch it all over the country. The reason that the parade affected the holiday shopping season, however, is due to its ads. Macy’s advertised during their show, and while they never called it Black Friday, the commercials were responsible for getting shoppers out of their houses and into the shops on the day after Thanksgiving.

A Changing Thanksgiving

In the 1940s, Americans were facing severe economic hardships. With the economy doing poorly, Franklin D. Roosevelt sought out a way to boost the economy. The holiday shopping season happens to be one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year. It is the one time of year that you can guarantee people will do a lot of their shopping. FDR thought that he could take advantage of this by pushing Thanksgiving from the last weekend of the month to the fourth weekend of the month, thereby increasing increased the length of the shopping season.

A Changing Thanksgiving

The term Black Friday, used as a reference to the shopping day, first happened in Philadelphia in the 1950s. Not only was Thanksgiving weekend turning into one of the more popular shopping times, but it was also known for its football games. Police first started to refer to the day as Black Friday as the streets of Philadelphia became crowded with shoppers and football fans. It’s not necessarily a pleasant image or even a name that was meant to be flattering. However, it began to stick. Then, in the 1960s, Philadelphia newspapers began reporting about shoppers that crowded in shopping centers on the day after Thanksgiving, referring to the day as Black Friday. Soon, the term spread across the country, gained popularity and became what we know it to be now. 

black friday sale shoes

Modern Black Friday

Black Friday as we know it today began in the 1990s. This is around the time that words like doorbusters came into popular use. People were treating Black Friday like its own holiday, and it has remained that way ever since. The 1990s is when we began to see people waking up before the sun rose to line up outside of the shops. Much like nowadays, you could see shoppers with carts full of television sets and household items. Parents rushed into stores like Toys-R-Us and filled their carts with the latest toys before the rush of the season made them impossible to find. Crowded stores on the day after Thanksgiving became a normal event and kept growing in popularity.

Once we hit the 2000s, newspaper headlines about injuries, store damage and massive crowds over the holiday weekend became a common occurrence. Black Friday’s popularity continued to increase, and in stores like Walmart, fights would break out between customers. People stampeded through doors, sometimes damaging merchandise and store property in the meantime. This led to a lot of changes in terms of policies over Black Friday. Stores were finding new ways to handle the crowds so that people wouldn’t get hurt in the shopping fervor.

Nowadays, we have seen a shift in Black Friday, however. Some people are turning to the internet for their deals, instead of braving the department stores and shopping malls. In addition, Black Friday begins earlier than before, with most sales starting on Thanksgiving Day, rather than the early hours of Friday morning.

Likewise, stores have found ways to decrease stampeding and fighting over objects. While it will probably always be a little bit rowdy when you get a lot of people shopping in one place together, this is no longer unfamiliar territory. Shops know how to handle Black Friday and prepare for it for weeks in advance.

International Black Friday

Black Friday was once solely an American shopping day. Most countries didn’t begin the holiday season as early, especially given that it has very clear roots in an American holiday. However, in recent years, other countries have been catching onto the Black Friday deals. When it comes down to it, the internet has a lot to do with the spread of the idea of Black Friday. Trends spread quickly with the internet. Of course, when it comes to Canada, their closeness makes it easy for them to take part in some of the sales. However, the trend has also spread overseas. 

black friday sale

How Black Friday Has Changed

Black Friday has gone through a few facelifts in its time. It started out innocuously enough, with Macy’s ads during the parade and later became a way to boost the economy during the holiday season. Over the last few years, we’ve seen more changes take place. Sales extend beyond one day or even the few hours that some of the early bird sales take place. Instead of a one-day event, sales go on throughout the week and over the weekend.

In addition to sales lasting longer, people have also moved to the internet. While there is still a significant amount of people who hit the stores on Black Friday, the numbers have dropped in recent years due to online shopping. Many stores still have their deals online at the same time. In addition, retailers like Amazon take advantage of what they call Cyber Monday.


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