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Black Friday Meaning
Black Friday is a colloquial term for the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States. It traditionally marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States.
Black Friday Origin
The term “Black Friday” has two distinct origins.
The first origin dates back to 1869, when two financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, attempted to corner the gold market. When their scheme failed, the stock market crashed, and the day was dubbed “Black Friday.”
The second origin is more closely related to the modern shopping holiday. In the 1950s, police officers in Philadelphia began using the term to describe the chaos and traffic congestion that occurred on the day after Thanksgiving, when large numbers of suburban shoppers and tourists came into the city to begin their holiday shopping.
Black Friday History
The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the United States Christmas shopping season since 1952. The practice may be linked with the idea of Santa Claus parades. Parades celebrating Thanksgiving often include an appearance by Santa at the end of the parade, with the idea that “Santa has arrived” or “Santa is just around the corner” because Christmas is always the next major Christian holiday following Thanksgiving.
Black Friday around the world
- United States
While Black Friday is not an officially recognized holiday in the United States, some states, including California, designate “The Day After Thanksgiving” as a state holiday for government employees. This observance is sometimes used in place of other federal holidays, such as Columbus Day.
As a result, many non-retail workers and students enjoy both Thanksgiving and the subsequent Friday as days off. When combined with the ensuing regular weekend, the weekend becomes a four-day weekend, which is believed to attract more potential shoppers. Interestingly, the South Park neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, holds the distinction of being the most heavily trafficked area in the United States on Black Friday.
The populous regions around Lake Ontario and the Lower Mainland in Canada have long been magnets for cross-border shopping in the United States. As it gained popularity in the U.S., many Canadians were drawn south of the border due to the allure of lower prices and the strength of the Canadian dollar. After 2001, this trend of seeking deals across the border continued to grow.
Beginning in 2008 and 2009, the parity of the Canadian dollar with the American dollar prompted several major Canadian retailers to introduce their own deals. This move was aimed at discouraging shoppers from venturing across the border to the U.S.
The year 2012 marked a significant turning point for Black Friday in Canada, with Canadian retailers fully embracing the event to prevent shoppers from traveling to the United States in search of deals.
Prior to the introduction of Black Friday in Canada, the holiday with the most comparable impact in terms of retailer activity and consumerism was Boxing Day. It’s worth noting that the U.S. often offers deeper or more significant price reductions compared to Canadian retailers, even when considering the same international retailer.
- United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the term “Black Friday” had its origins within the Police and NHS, where it initially referred to the Friday preceding Christmas. On this day, emergency services would activate contingency plans to manage the surge in workload caused by the high number of people going out for drinks on the last Friday before Christmas. These contingency measures could involve the establishment of mobile field hospitals near nightspots in city centers.
Over time, the term it extended beyond these services to encompass the evening and night of the Friday immediately before Christmas. It has now become a widely recognized and mainstream term, no longer limited to the specialized jargon of emergency services.
French businesses have been gradually incorporating the Black Friday tradition into their market. Retail giants like Apple and Amazon offered discounts of up to 85% in 2014. Major French electronics retailers, including FNAC and Auchan, promoted deals online, and Darty also participated in this annual mega sale.
Interestingly, retailers in France often preferred to use the American term “Black Friday” in their advertisements, as opposed to the French translation, “Vendredi noir.” However, in 2016, following the November terror attacks in Paris the previous year, some retailers opted for the name “Jour XXL” (XXL day) instead of Black Friday.
In 2018, an alternative approach was introduced by certain online businesses, known as “French Days.” This initiative aims to replicate the essence of Black Friday but during the spring season, typically commencing around the first day of May.
In Germany, retailer advertisements for the equivalent of “Black Friday” refer to it as “Black Week” or “Black Shopping” in English, with sales extending throughout an entire week, excluding Sundays when most retail stores remain closed. Stores maintain their regular operating hours during this extended sales period. While goods are indeed offered at reduced prices, the reductions are not significantly deeper than the usual weekly price cuts.
Apple made history by initiating a special Black Friday campaign for the German market in 2006, although they never used the term “Black Friday” in Germany. Instead, they promoted it as a “one-day shopping event.” During the early years, it was primarily online retailers who leveraged the event to attract new customers with discounts, but brick-and-mortar stores have also begun to adapt to this shopping phenomenon.
A significant milestone was reached in 2016 when German customers spent more than €1 billion during the Black Friday weekend. According to a study by the Centre for Retail Research, German shoppers contributed around €1.3 billion (equivalent to $1.54 billion) in total sales during the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday in 2016.
In Australia, the term “Black Friday” has sparked controversy. Prior to its association with shopping, it had historical significance linked to the devastating Black Friday bushfires that occurred in Victoria in 1938–39. The term originally did not refer to shopping at all. However, it wasn’t until the 2010s that “Black Friday” was heavily promoted as a shopping day by both in-store and online retailers in Australia. This transition was met with backlash and confusion among consumers.
In 2011, Online Shopping USA organized an event on Twitter, encouraging users to engage with the hashtag #osublackfriday. This allowed people to follow and share their favorite deals and discounts from various stores. The social media platform became a hub for online shopping enthusiasts to connect.
In 2013, Apple expanded its Black Friday deals to Australia. Customers who made purchases online received the added benefits of free shipping and complimentary iTunes gift cards with every purchase. Apple’s website prominently featured these deals with the message, “Official Apple Store – One day Apple shopping event Friday, November 29.”
Violence and chaos on Black Friday
In 2018, there were over 100 reports of violence on Black Friday, including assaults, robberies, and stampedes. One person was killed in a shooting at a Walmart store in Mississippi. In 2019, there were over 70 reports of violence on Black Friday. One person was killed in a shooting at a Walmart store in Colorado.
Tips for staying safe on Black Friday
- Shop with a friend or family member.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
- Take breaks from shopping. Get some fresh air and something to eat and drink.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be careful not to walk into traffic or trip over obstacles.
- Don’t carry too much cash or credit cards with you.
- If you see something suspicious, report it to security or the police.