The closer we get to the last days of November, the more ads for discounts and sales there are. Marketing campaigns are so aggressive that even if you are not too interested in shopping or discounts, you can't miss Black Friday. It is one of the most important days of the year for millions of costumers, offline retailers, and online shops. Black Friday deals are beneficial for both shoppers who can buy the things they need for less money and the shops that can draw crowds offline and hundreds of orders online with discounts.
That`s what the Black Friday sales look like today. But what is the story behind this day? How did the main shoppers` celebration appear, and how did it become one of the most expected days of the year? Let's find this out.
If you ask anyone when is Black Friday, you`ll hear that it is the day after Thanksgiving, meaning it`s the fourth Friday of November. The very first time the term 'Black Friday' was mentioned is September 24, 1869. It was the day the U. S. gold market crashed as a result of illegal financial activities realized by Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, the ruthless financiers from Wall Street. On that Friday, the stock market was sent into free-fall, and millions of Americans went bankrupt. Only a century later, the negative connotation of the term 'Black Friday' was changed.
There are several theories about the origin of the term 'Black Friday' in the way referring to shopping. The first of them says it was coined by the factory supervisors in Philadelphia in 1951. They noticed that many employees couldn`t work due to sickness the day after Thanksgiving. The supervisors understood that workers just wanted another day of rest to have an extra-long weekend, but they couldn`t do anything about it. The term was recorded in the Factory Management and Maintenance magazine, and most likely, it was used to describe the new holiday caused by the 'sickness'.
According to the second theory, the term 'Black Friday' was used in 1981, when the workers from New Jersey malls stated that the most profitable period of the year for their stores began right after Thanksgiving. These were days when people started their holiday shopping, and the retailers could show a profit. The term itself refers to business profitability: the books are in the red when sales are poor and things are going bad, but the books are in the black when business is profiting - as it does on Black Friday.
The third and maybe the most plausible theory relates to the 1960s when traffic cops in Philadelphia started calling the day after Thanksgiving 'Black Friday' due to the traffic congestion. At those times, there were no discounts, but after celebrating Thanksgiving, the public wanted to go shopping. It was also the first day to see Santa Claus and let the kids sit on his lap. Besides, this Friday was the day of the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
But even when there was no term 'Black Friday' relating shopping with discounts, the post-Thanksgiving day already was a perfect day to make audacious bargains in the USA. In the 1940s, the biggest retailers were settled in the centers of big cities, while the smaller towns had shopping districts for the locals. People who lived in the country had to go to the nearest big city to buy something luxury. The department stores offered clothes, home goods, cosmetics, presents, and anything else for the holidays. To boost sales, each of them ran its special promotion the day after Thanksgiving, and it was effective marketing.
The 1980s and 1990s got marked by the sprouting of big retailers and their imitators across the United States. That`s when the large-format stores were proliferating in the regions and creating competitive retail in the suburbs. And that`s when the day after Thanksgiving turned into the Black Friday as we know it today.
Of course, it would be great to witness the whole evolution of the main sales event throughout the years, but the earliest scanned images of the Best Buy Black Friday flyers go back to 1996. It`s interesting to compare them with the flyers of the best Black Friday deals in 2018 to see the evolution of marketing techniques. Low sales are one of the main differences. Internet was not used as widely as today, there were far fewer stores and malls providing discounts like Target – Black Friday was not so popular among the retailers at all. Another difference is that today we have a much greater variety of products to choose from. Besides, in the mid-1990s, most of the shops opened at 5 AM or 6 AM, and the sales lasted for only about six hours and ended in the afternoon. A short time of sale and a low number of products with a discount made the customers fight for each purchase, and this was stress rather than pleasure.
Today's Black Friday and shopping, on the whole, are omnichannel. Shoppers try not to set up the fights to buy something on Black Friday. The celebration of discounts is mostly online now. Of course, the shoppers still go to the stores, but mostly to see and touch the products in person. After that, they go home to buy the same products online at lower prices.