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Why its is ‘Black Friday’ and Not ‘Big Friday’: The Origin and Evolution

Black Friday is one of the most anticipated days of the year, given the charm, it brings not only for shoppers but retailers as well. However, that was not the case in the yesteryears. Historically, Black Friday was associated with economic stress that gripped economies in North America instead of the booming commercial success enjoyed in modern history. Likewise, the day was always marred by disaster and misfortune.

Fast forward, things have changed and Black Friday is one of the most cherished days of the year. The amount of shopping that takes place on that day makes it one of the most profitable days, of the year, for retailers and businesses as well. Similarly, the day offers the best opportunity for consumers to take advantage of the attractive and enticing discounts on retail stores.

Black Friday Origin

While it is often seen as the unofficial beginning of the holiday season in the U.S, very few people know why it earned the name ‘Black Friday’ in the first place. The true origins of the term black Friday is darker than what most people know.

Black Friday first came into use in 1869 when two entrepreneurs, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, drove the price of gold up, triggering a crash in commodity prices. The market dropped by as much as 20% and farmers experienced big losses with a 50% decline in wheat and corn harvest value.

It is in the 1920s that the negative connotation associated with Black Friday would change significantly. In 1924, Macy’s Department store launched a famous Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. The parade, which was in celebration of the retail store’s success, ended up boosting shopping activities the following day.

In return, retailers reached a gentleman’s agreement and agreed to wait until the following day before advertising holiday sales. At the peak of the great depression in 1939, Thanksgiving happened on the fifth week of November. Faced with the risk of going bankrupt, retailers petitioned President Franklin Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday.

In 1941 Congress passed a law that affirmed the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. Similarly, Black Friday was also cast in stone to signify the holiday shopping season’s start, the day after the Thanksgiving celebrations.

Given that celebrations that took place during Thanksgiving in the 1950’s workers often called in sick, refusing to go to work the next day, which was Friday. By giving themselves a four-day weekend, Black Friday’s status as an important holiday was affirmed in the calendar.

In the 1950s, police termed Black Friday the day between Thanksgiving and the army-navy game. During this day, huge crowds of shoppers turned up to the city, forcing cops to work long hours to direct traffic and control crowds.

Black Friday Evolution

While merchants did try to change Black Friday to ‘Big Friday,’ given the amount of business they recorded that day, it never materialized. As late as the 1980s, Black Friday had become a global phenomenon with a more positive connotation.

In modern days, the day after Thanksgiving is referred to as Black Friday because it is the most profitable day for most retailers and businesses. The fact that accountants use black to signify profit when recording book entries also underscores the name.

Unlike in the 1860s and 1950S, Black Friday is now the most profitable Friday in the modern retail industry and the economy at large. Retail and consumer spending activities on the day are known to drive up to 70% of the U.S gross domestic product.

Similarly, retailers in recent years have adopted the Black Friday term to reflect the amount of success they have enjoyed in the past years and what they are likely to register going forward. The day is not only of importance to retailers but consumers as well.

Black Friday offers consumers an opportunity to save big money on a number of items that retailers usually offer at highly discounted prices. Similarly, the amount of money spent by consumers has increased significantly over the years from $416 billion as of 2002 to highs of $730 billion as of 2019.

The resiliency and status of Black Friday were yet again affirmed in 2020. Even as the world was grappling with the havoc-causing COVID-19 pandemic, nothing could stop retailers from offering some of the best deals as they looked to entice consumers.

Similarly, consumers used the opportunity to save big money on some of the items that they had been looking forward to. Consumers ended up spending $9 billion online on Black Friday in 2020, up 21.6% year over year. Global sales are believed to have increased 30% to record highs of $62.2 billion for the single-day shopping bonanza.

Ruchi Gupta

Ruchi Gupta covers various beats from finance to technology and from lifestyle to hobbies. She has an MBA in Finance. Ruchi enjoys writing on celebrities and political news. She likes traveling and exploring places.

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