The history of Black Friday dates back to the 1800s, where it was first used in conjunction with the financial crisis of 1869. The losses were so grave on one particular Friday, that it was dubbed “Black Friday” by the investment community around Wall St.
Black Friday and Philadelphia
The first time that the term Black Friday was used in conjunction with Thanksgiving was in 1966. Concerned about the amount of foot and vehicle traffic within the streets of Philadelphia around the City Center shopping district, the police department dubbed the day Black Friday.
Around the city of Philadelphia the term also expanded to be used by bus drivers and city workers who noticed that the shopping and foot traffic was immense on the day after Thanksgiving which also coincided with the yearly Army-Navy which traditionally took place the following Saturday.
During the 1980s another theory became popular among retailers who started to refer to the day as Black Friday. There was a prevailing sentiment that retailers operated in the red from January through late November. They would subsequently go in the black after Thanksgiving through the holiday season at the end of the December. Hence the term Black Friday represented the day retailers could celebrate finally turning their books around.
Toward the end of the 20th century, retailers realized that they could extend the Thanksgiving weekend shopping by offering special deals on the Monday after Thanksgiving when people returned to work. This day was officially dubbed “Cyber Monday.”
Retailers entice workers who are sluggishly returning to the office by sending them email blasts and offering coupons on their website. This practice was not possible before the mid 1990‘s because many people were not on the internet and had not become used to shopping for items with a simple point and click. This practice essentially extends the shopping weekend to a fourth day.
With retailers consistently trying to get an edge over their competitor, they have moved to offering shopping deals on Thanksgiving itself. Generally toward the end of the day, retailers try and take advantage of consumers who might have finished their Thanksgiving meal and are lounging around the house with friends and family. Getting online and shopping gives people something to do with each other.
Stores have also started to open for all or a portion of the day, essentially extending “Black Friday” into Thanksgiving Day itself. While some traditionalists feel this compromises the holiday, others are happy to beat the crowds and get a good deal on the items they want to buy.