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All the Facts About Black Friday

November 23, 2018

Most people think of “Black Friday” as the day after Thanksgiving known for big sales and a huge rush of holiday shopping. But nearly 150 years ago, Black Friday referred to a major financial crisis and the crash of the U.S. gold market on Sept. 24, 1869. Two Wall Street financiers ruthlessly bought up much of the nation’s gold in an attempt to drive up the price and sell for a huge profit. But when the conspiracy unraveled, the stock market went into free-fall, bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers and ranchers.

Today, retailers yearn for Black Friday as the beginning of the final push to turn a profit (“get into the black”) for the year. What used to be a one-day sales bonanza has transformed into a four- and even five-day event, spawning other “retail holidays” such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

According to a pre-holiday survey this year by the National Retail Federation, 136 million Americans (59%) definitely plan to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend. But even if you stay home, it’s interesting to learn more about this big day.

  • Back in 1960s and ’70s, the day after Thanksgiving was called “Big Friday.” But it changed and evolved thanks to Philadelphia slang. Apparently, the cops in Philly grew frustrated with the congested traffic caused by shoppers, and retailers in turn were upset about both traffic and smog. Big Friday began getting called Black Friday, and the name stuck. By the 1990s, it was a national phrase.
  • For many years, the last Thursday of November was Thanksgiving. But this changed in 1939, when that also happened to be the last day of the month and retailers complained of a shortened holiday shopping season. This led to a petition to Congress and the president. In 1941, by joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, it was agreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which gave shoppers extra time to shop before Christmas.
  • You often hear that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but that wasn’t actually true until 2001. Before that, the Saturday before Christmas was traditionally the biggest shopping day.
  • 2011 was a big year for Black Friday. That’s when Walmart broke tradition and decided to open their doors on the evening of Thanksgiving, instead of waiting until the early hours of Friday morning. Many other stores copied this idea, and since then, retailers have engaged with a race against the clock, opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving. Nowadays, more than 33 million Americans will shop on Thanksgiving, either in stores or online.
  • Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. Apparently, both retails stores and homes are needed to clean up after guests “overwhelm their system.”
  • Thanksgiving is known as a day for indulging in food, but perhaps a certain amount of people indulge in drinks too. A study shows that at least 12% of Black Friday shoppers are drunk, hitting the stores under the influence of alcohol.
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