Why is Black Friday called Black Friday?

By D. C. Moody - dmoody@civitasmedia.com

PICKENS COUNTY — Have you ever wondered where the term Black Friday came from or where the tradition of shopping on Black Friday originated?

If so, you might not be the only one. Black Friday actually began in the 19th century following the establishment of Thanksgiving by President Abraham Lincoln.

Thanks to lobbying efforts by retailers to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the fourth Thursday in November was set as the official day of the holiday to encourage a longer shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Until 1966 there was no term such as Black Friday, but for 100 years it had been in existence much as it exists today.

One of the traditions associated with Thanksgiving was actually a marketing ploy to increase Black Friday and holiday shopping sales.

In 1924 Macy’s began its annual parade with live animals from the Central Park Zoo instead of balloons and floats. The parade was designed to bring shoppers into the streets where the department stores were located to entice them inside to buy Christmas gifts.

During the 1950’s a trend developed in which American workers would “call out” from work the day following Thanksgiving to recover or shop as they saw fit. Many companies began to give a paid day off as a result, except for those in retail who remained on duty to serve those who were skipping work.

The name Black Friday has been attributed inaccurately to three separate origins.

One story is the day is named such because slave traders would give reduced prices the day following Thanksgiving as an incentive. The second is that it is the day in which American retailers make themselves profitable for the year.

Finally, there is a belief it is associated with the stock market crash of 1929 which led to The Great Depression — which is Black Thursday and Black Tuesday, not Friday.

So where did the name come from?

In 1966 an ad appeared in The American Philatelist, a magazine for stamp collectors, referencing Black Friday for the first time in relation to the day following Thanksgiving. It seems the Philadelphia police had been using the term for sometime as a way to reference the crowds and traffic in the city on that day.

The term was meant to represent the mayhem provoked and problems to be faced by extra police on duty as a result of the post-Thanksgiving rush and is less than flattering, though accurate.

Over the intervening years advertisers have removed the stigma associated with the name and the day is recognized as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Despite the fact Black Friday barely makes it into the top five sales days of the year for retailers, the numbers are staggering.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in-store sales for Black Friday 2013 totalled $12.3 billion, up 2.3 percent from the previous year, with 2013 being the first year a majority of retailers opened on Thanksgiving Day itself.

By D. C. Moody


Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.

Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.

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