| 1 min read | by Doug Marrin, |

Photo: Powhusku on Wikimedia | Creative commons

The day after Thanksgiving has become known as “Black Friday”, an unofficial holiday with enthusiastic, and in some cases overly-enthusiastic, shoppers getting in on great deals. For many of us not shopping, it is often still a day off work on the long Thanksgiving weekend. So, for such a happy and exciting day, why does it have such a downer name?

It has nothing to do with shopping.

The first “Black Friday” was used in reference to the stock market crash of 1869 during the Ulysses Grant presidency, but that has nothing to do with today’s day after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.


The modern use of “Black Friday” as the day after Thanksgiving occurs in 1951 referring to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving to extend their weekend.

The name stuck but its meaning changed as it shifted to the unofficial start of the shopping season and from there retailers began to offer deals to get things going.

The day is the single biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S. kicking off the 4 week Christmas shopping frenzy where retailers typically do 30% of their annual sales. In spite of stiff competition from online sales, Black Friday sales continue to increase for retailers. Black Friday sales in 2008 were $501.7 billion with the average shopper spending $694.19. In 2018, sales for the single day were $717.5 billion with shoppers averaging $1007.24 each.

For many retailers, Black Friday is seen as the day they turn their profit for the year; going from the “red”, denoting deficit, to “black” denoting profit in accounting lingo that refers to the practice of recording losses with red ink and profits with black ink.

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 as push back against rampant commercialism encouraging people instead to #OptOutside.

Black Friday has since caught the attention of many other countries that celebrate it on different days according to their own shopping seasons. Here in the U.S., anticipation for Black Friday is growing into its own shopping season. Black Friday ads and offers now appear as early as late October, some 5 weeks before the actual date, whereas the traditional Christmas shopping season is only 4 weeks long.

Few things create happier times than people spending money.


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