How Black Friday Got Its Name


By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

The day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday," is an unofficial holiday with enthusiastic, and in some cases overly-enthusiastic, shoppers getting in on great deals. For many non-shoppers, it is a much-anticipated day off from work to extend the long Thanksgiving weekend.

So, for such a happy and exciting day, why does it have such an ominous name?

It has nothing to do with shopping.

The first "Black Friday" moniker was used in reference to the stock market crash of 1869 during the Ulysses Grant presidency but had nothing to do with the day after Thanksgiving, which wouldn't even be declared a Federal holiday until Franklin Roosevelt did so in 1941. Walmart shoppers would have to patiently wait until the company was founded in 1962 to stampede over the top of each other for a deal.

The modern use of "Black Friday" as the day after Thanksgiving first occurred in 1951 and has nothing to do with shopping. At the time, it referred to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving to extend their weekend.

While the label for the day has remained, its meaning has shifted to the holiday shopping season's unofficial kickoff, with stores offering huge discounts to get the shopping carts rolling. Black Friday is historically the single biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S., with some retailers garnering as much as 30% of their annual sales. For many businesses, Black Friday is the day they turn their profit for the year—going from the "red," denoting deficit, to "black," indicating gain in accounting lingo.

The popularity and success of Black Friday have caused some big chain merchants to back the starting time up to 9:00 p.m. Thanksgiving night, creating a derisive "Black Thursday." Other retailers such as outdoor recreation company REI are closing on the day to push back against rampant commercialism, encouraging people to #OptOutside.

With many merchants facing a disastrous year due to the fallout of (you-know-what), Black Friday is more critical than ever to their survival and livelihood, especially small businesses. The good news for retailers is that forecasters such as the National Retail Federation predict record sales for the 2021 holiday shopping season.

However you choose to spend your money this year, we at The Sun Times News encourage you to #OptLocal and consider first supporting those merchants and businesses that make up the fabric of your community, who have been called upon over the years to donate to and charitably support events and projects beneficial to us all.

Here’s to wishing you the best of the holiday season.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

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