Black Friday – A Lesson in History
The story behind Black Friday goes back further than you might have thought. Since the late 19th century, the day that follows Thanksgiving was the unofficial start to the Christmas holiday season. President Lincoln nominated the final Thursday of November as the Thanksgiving holiday. At that time, Black Friday wasn’t the name given to that day. That name came from September 24 of 1869 – the day two analysts caused a boom-and-bust situation for the gold market.
A Canadian department store called Eaton’s initiated the great Thanksgiving Day parade in 1905, taking Santa through the Toronto streets in a wagon. In 1913, Santa’s ‘sleigh’ was pulled by eight live reindeer. 1916 saw seven floats, each representing characters from nursery rhymes, join Santa parading through the streets.
It was in 1924 that Macy’s debuted its Thanksgiving Day Parade through New York City. The department store wished to showcase its success in the 1920s, and the parade led to a huge shopping boost the next day – retailers made an informal agreement to hold off on advertising holiday deals until that day.
Through the Great Depression, in 1939, Thanksgiving fell during week five of November. Retail stores feared bankruptcy, as the shopping season before Christmas would be too short. They sent a petition to President Roosevelt to have the Thanksgiving holiday moved up to Thursday number four for November of this year. Unfortunately, it was near the end of October, and many had already made arrangements for Thanksgiving; many critics labelled the one-off early date “Franksgiving”. Only 32 states followed FDR’s move.
Consequently, in 1941, US Congress made a law stating that Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of November. The 1950s saw a spate of people taking a sick day on the Friday after Thanksgiving. With most stores and businesses open, those off work could get a head start on their Christmas shopping, and soon many businesses began offering the Friday after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday.
The title ‘Black Friday’ became famous in 1966 when an article appeared in an advert in a magazine for stamp collectors called The American Philatelist. The Philadelphia PD coined the term ‘Black Friday’ to represent the traffic jams and overcrowding in stores.
2016 saw 101.7 million people brave the crowds, a huge increase from the 74 million of the year before. The total spend of the Black Friday weekend in 2016 was a staggering $655.8 billion, which was a 3.6% increase on the previous year. Black Friday spending has consistently increased since 2008, and estimates for 2017 anticipate that this trend will continue (statistics from The Balance)