The History of Black Friday- How it has changed over the years

With one of the biggest shopping events coming up, Black Friday falls on November 26th this year. What started off as an American tradition, has now become a global sensation. We discuss the history of Black Friday, how it has changed over the years and what the future of Black Friday looks like

Where did Black Friday come from?

Whilst the true history of Black Friday is uncertain with contradictory origin stories, the term often is set to stem from American in the 1950s. It was initially used to describe people who were taking a sick day from work, the day after Thanksgiving (which falls on the last Thursday of the month). People tended to use this day off work to hit the shops and get a head start on their Christmas Shopping. Specifically, the term started to get used in Philadelphia. People started their Christmas shopping but it coincided with a large sporting event, so the Police started to refer to the day as Black Friday due to the general mayhem it caused. The term started to get used more regularly in the retail world in the 1980s as this was when many retailers started to figure out the potential of Black Friday. It is often said the term refers to “being in the black” after being in the red when it comes to profits, however, this story has been often deemed as incorrect. It was not until around 2010 that the UK and other areas of the world decided to follow suit and use it as a great marketing opportunity to start pushing their Christmas products early. By 2014, Black Friday became the peak day for eCommerce Sales, as more and more people decided to switch to online shopping.

The Introduction of Cyber Monday

Though uncertain, the history of Black Friday has led to more shopping events. Cyber Monday is the Monday following Black Friday and first appeared in 2005 after the term was coined by Ellen Davis and Scott Silverman from the National Retail Federation. This day arose from research that showed the majority of online sales increased on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday, therefore, became a way for smaller companies with larger chains by using online platforms which helped level the playing field and sell to a wider audience.

Giving Tuesday

Whilst the history of Black Friday is very consumer-based, recently many businesses have toned things down from purely focussing on making money, to reminding people of the importance of charitable giving at Christmas. Giving Tuesday was an initiative started in 2012 by the UN. It is an international day of donating, volunteering, and other forms of giving and a chance for businesses and individuals to give back to causes that are close to their hearts. This year, Giving Tuesday falls on November 30th.

The Instore/ Digital Cross over

Whilst Black Friday originally was seen as a retail day with Cyber Monday solely for online sales, this is no longer the case. The consumption-based history of Black Friday has started to migrate online. Especially last year when the pandemic led to more people turning to online for their shopping. Companies across the world often now combine Black Friday and Cyber Monday and even spread the offers out longer and have a Cyber week (with some companies going even further and having offers throughout November). The majority of sales throughout the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period are now done online.

Going Global

The retail potential of Black Friday seemed irresistible and companies from around the world decided they wanted to take part, despite the fact the tradition is centered around Thanksgiving (a holiday only celebrated officially in the US). Along with the UK, Italy, France, South Africa and Japan are just some of the countries that have started having Black Friday sales. It is clear to see why the hype of Black Friday has spread across the world. An IPSOS report in 2019 showed that global sales were on average 6.6 times higher than a usual Friday. Pakistan even reported sales of a staggering 115 times the regular spend.

Single’s Day in China

Whilst Black Friday and Cyber Monday are massive retail events, they do not even compare to the phenomenon of Singles’ Day in China which saw over $38 billion in sales in just over 24 hours. Created by the retail giant AliBaba in 2011, Singles Day falls on 11th November each year and what is an unofficial holiday that acts like an “anti-Valentine’s Day” for single people, it has turned into the biggest shopping day in the world. Whilst there are signs Black Friday may start to take off in China, will Singles’ Day start being celebrated in different areas of the world instead? Who knows?

Boycotting Black Friday

Despite the history of Black Friday being rooted in consumption, there are a group of people who started to react against the consumerism that Black Friday represents. Rather than grabbing themselves a bargain, they deliberately avoid shopping and have labelled it “Buy Nothing Day” instead. In 2019 in France there were also “Block Friday” protestors that attempted to block an Amazon Warehouse. There are also those concerned about the environmental impact Black Friday has due to the large increase in resources and consumption which may go to waste. Whilst none of these protests and objections have outweighed the popularity of Black Friday, it is interesting to see whether Black Friday will continue as the shopping craze it currently is.

The Future of Black Friday

Over the past decade, Black Friday has changed immensely and is now a worldwide phenomenon. What used to be a single day of bargain buys is now growing bigger; often without the 24-hour time limit. Black Friday offers a great marketing opportunity for many companies as it provides the chance to offer exclusive promotions and discounts at a time that we know people are wanting to spend their money. This can be a great tool for gaining new customers and also increase the average basket value. However, will Black Friday continue to be the largest retail day of the year? Is it sustainable for businesses to continue offering such large deals? Will people start to not see the appeal of the deals anymore? Will we have another super shopping day instead? Or will the day just continue but evolve as times and people’s shopping habits continue to change?

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