What is Black Friday?

black friday 2010 saleBlack Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas  shopping season. Depending on your source, the term dates either from the 1980s or back as 1966, although its usage was primarily on the East coast. The term has become more common in other parts of the country since 2000. Because Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States, Black Friday occurs between the 23rd and the 29th of November. Canada does not have a so called Black Friday.  We do have Boxing Day but that is the day after Christmas (the 25th).

Black Friday is not an official holiday, but, as many workers have the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday, this increases the number of potential shoppers. Retailers often decorate for the Christmas and holiday season weeks beforehand. Many retailers open extremely early, with most of the retailers typically opening at 5AM or even earlier. Some of the larger retailers (depending on the location) such as Sears, Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys “R” Us, Walmart, and Target have been reported to open as early as midnight on the start of Black Friday in localized areas and remain open for 24 hours throughout the day until midnight the following Saturday. Upon opening, retailers offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. Although Black Friday, as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, has served as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season at least since the start of the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the term “Black Friday” has been traced back only to the 1960s.

The term “Black Friday” may have originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving . Others claim it was part of mid-1980s anti-consumerism backlash, when people took a pledge to “blackout” that day – staying home, rather than shopping. Hence the term “Black Friday.” More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit).

The term Cyber Monday, a neologism invented in 2005 by the National Retail Federation’s  division Shop.org, refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday based on a clear consumer trend that retailers began to recognize in 2003 and 2004. At the time, retailers noticed that many consumers, who were too busy to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend or did not find what they were looking for, shopped online that Monday from home or work to find bargains.