So what is black Friday? Yes, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and there are a lot of great sales but where does it come from? It actually stems from the stock market crash of 1869 (not 1929). There was a horrific crash of the gold market that ruined many people, not just the rich either. The 1929 stock market crash actually happened on a Tuesday, but at the time there were numerous comparisons to the black Friday stock crash of 1869. Over time people assume (incorrectly) that the 1929 stock market crash that kicked off the great depression happened on a Friday.
How did it become associated with retail? In the 1950’s the Philadelphia police labeled the Friday after thanksgiving as black Friday as thousands of people would stream into the city. Not to shop but to get ready for the Army Navy game happening on Saturday. There was crime, shopping, all sorts of shenanigans. From there retailers began to market sales to capitalize on the influx of people and call it black Friday sales.
This began to take hold, but many in other cities called it “Big Friday” and a snowball effect occurred. Simply put, one store had a sale so other stores to compete had sales and months turned to years, to decades of this tradition. So much so that many retailers were able to parlay black Friday sales into huge profits putting their business on an annual income of “being in the black”. This is when we really see X-mas marketing go through the roof as more and more retailers started banking on a robust black Friday sale kick off to fuel the ytd corporate earnings.
Here we are in 2021 and this hasn’t changed much, you see all the holiday music, the nonstop adverts etc. We now have a new concept “Cyber Monday” which is beginning to eat away at the traditional black Friday sale concept. You can now shop year round and have things delivered on credit anywhere in the world. Remember in 1957 things were different. Most people didn’t have credit cards, you bought things you could pay cash for. Travel in the U.S. was blossoming with the highway system but it was new. International travel was still fairly limited, compared today and ordering a good or service abroad meant a catalog order you did through mail which would take months to receive.
Black Friday as we know it today is consumerism at its pinnacle. We have been marketed to believe that it is this consumers holiday. When in reality it is the cumulating of a series of events that happened that some clever marketing firm in the 1950’s capitalized on. Have fun out there and remember gift wrapping is only an additional 20.00……
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