The history of Black Friday 0

Blog1By David McNeill

When did Black Friday become a thing?

Like many people, I can’t remember when it was that Black Friday actually became ‘a thing’. I just assumed it was another example of the UK becoming ‘Americanised’, a cynical, made-up celebration driven by multinational retailers seizing the easy opportunity to whip consumers into a bloodthirsty frenzy. I’m probably not a million miles off with that idea, but it’s odd, in my memory Black Friday wasn’t a thing, than it was and I can’t remember the moment the change occured.

That being the case, I decided to do a bit of research into the history of Black Friday, and where it takes its roots.

Unsurprisingly Black Friday does come from the US, but from further back than I thought. 1869 to be exact. Two unscrupulous stockbrokers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk came up with a plan to buy the bulk of the USA’s gold, causing the price to skyrocket. They would then sell it back at an enormous profit. When the plan came to light one Friday in September, panic ensued and the stock-market went into freefall and bankrupted thousands across the country. That was the first known recorded example of the term ‘Black Friday’ being used.

Another theory is the old adage that it took US retailers almost a whole year operating at a loss before they would make any profit. The moment they went from the red to the black was traditionally the week after Thanksgiving.

There are more sinister ideas behind the name. Some say it comes from the weekend – again after Thanksgiving – when Southern plantation owners could buy slaves at a premium. There is no hard evidence to back this up, but it’s a widely held view – especially in the southern states.

The most likely explanation for the Black Friday name comes from Philadelphia. The day after Thanksgiving a huge Army versus Navy american football match would take place and the city would be flooded with tourists and daytrippers from miles around. In the chaos such a large amount of extra visitors created, shoplifting skyrocketed – light fingered thieves taking advantage of the stretched police force and making off with thousands of pounds worth of merchandise. Shop owners tried unsuccessfully to have the name changed to ‘Big Friday’ – to remove the negative connotations – but it had stuck (in Philadelphia at least). It wasn’t until the mid-eighties that the rest of the US caught on, the ‘red to black’ reason adopted as the most sanitised media friendly reason.

Black Friday first made its way to these shores in 2010 when Amazon first offered a Black Friday sale. Not many people noticed back then, but as each year has passed more and more retailers have got onboard driving it into the mega-event it is today.

Good luck everyone this Black Friday. Stay safe and remember, it’s not worth punching someone for 25% off a set of garden furniture.

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