Black Friday – the good, the bad and the ugly
Today “Black Friday” is a commercial shopping holiday in which consumers main purpose is to snap-up the best deals for their festive season shopping. Originating in the USA, and spreading to Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the rest of Europe and more recently the Southern Hemisphere countries of Australia and South Africa, there are some good, bad and just plain ugly stories about the history of this notorious day.
In 1941 the United States Congress stipulated that Thanksgiving will officially fall on the 4th Thursday in November. In later years, and as far back as 1952, many non-retail companies and schools were seen to take the following Friday off, creating a long weekend signaling the start of the festive season.
In Philadelphia, in the 1950’s a yearly Army vs Navy football game held every Saturday after Thanksgiving saw floods of tourists and shoppers descend on the city on the Friday in preparation for the game the following day. This soon became a nightmare for retailers as shoplifters often took advantage of the chaos while police and law enforcement worked extra-long shifts dealing with raucous crowds and traffic congestion, thus dubbing the day ‘Black Friday”.
Years later, as the phrase became wider spread, it was said that “Black Friday” was the day in which retailers would see the red, negative cash-flow, change to black, positive cash-flow. As late as the 1980’s with this, more positive spin on “Black Friday”, retailers began offering impressive sales to attract more consumers on this particular day.
As it grew in popularity “Black Friday” became the “not-to-be-missed” sale of the year, often with horror stories of people being trampled (to death) in stores and fighting over merchandise. To curb this, retailers extended their trading hours but unfortunately this just lead to consumers lining up, some even before their Thanksgiving meals had digested, to ensure that they were first in line for the store opening, in order to secure the much-desired merchandise.
Most recently, retailers aiming to reduce the sales madness or at least curb the hysteria, have opted for extended sales days often including the week before or the entire month of November. Many also offering consumers online or application based shopping solutions.
Other than the retail phenomena that has become “Black Friday” as we know it, there are some other slightly darker histories behind the term “Black Friday”.
The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied to a financial crisis when on September 24th, 1869 saw the crash of the U.S. gold market and the conspiracy involving ruthless Wall Street financiers was unravelled, plummeting the stock market and bankrupting many wealthy tycoons, farmers and retirees.
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