November 27, 2009

A brief history of Black Friday

Posted: 05:45 PM ET

By Dan Fletcher


Here's hoping you avoided the food coma: you'll need your wits about you for Black Friday. The traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza has become a full-contact sport, with crazed shoppers determined to find the best deals, sometimes with tragic results. In last year's frenzy, a worker at a New York Walmart was trampled to death when the store opened its doors; two shoppers were shot in a dispute at a Toys "R" Us in California. The ensuing safety concerns may have prompted some shoppers to think twice, but retailers still expect a bonanza: the weekend after Thanksgiving is expected to account for some $40 billion in sales.

As early as the 19th century, shoppers have viewed Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, an occasion marked by celebrations and sales. Department stores in particular locked onto this marketing notion, hosting parades to launch the start of the first wave of Christmas advertisements, chief among them, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, running in New York City since 1924. The holiday spree became so important to retailers that during the Great Depression, they appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving up in order to stretch out the holiday shopping season. Roosevelt obliged, moving Thanksgiving one week earlier, but didn't announce the change until October. As a result, Americans had two Thanksgivings that year — Roosevelt's, derisively dubbed "Franksgiving," and the original. Because the switchover was handled so poorly, few observed it, and the change resulted in little economic boost.

The term Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices. Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season's biggest shopping day each year except 2004, according to market-research firm ShopperTrak.

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Filed under: Economy

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John H.   November 29th, 2009 1:00 am ET

I can see how much interest there is in this subject. Guess everyone is out shopping for sales. As for me, I would never waste my time or put myself through the discomfort that comes with standing for hours outside a store waiting for it to open and then hoping I am one of the fortunate who comes up with the few real bargains. Bah Humbug!

carebear   November 29th, 2009 5:08 am ET

Christmas is my favourite time of the year, however, the commercialism is getting out of hand. Canadians like Americans also go wild about shopping. This year with the economy still being down, and many still being jobless there are pre-Boxing Day sales, additionally there will be post- Boxing Day sales, encouraging us to buy more and more!

What is sad is to see so many stressed out looking folks. One can tell that they can ill-afford their purchases, but they still feel compelled to buy more. Those with credit cards go further into debt. Buying gifts for others is a nice thing to do, but gifts can come in many forms including kindness toward others. Going into further debt is not what Christmas is all about.

This special time of the year should be more about our family and friends, and less about expensive gifts or trying to outdo the other. Family, friends, and helping others, make the season brighter! Christmas should be based more on love, love one another.

Mark C Wilson   November 29th, 2009 11:24 am ET

Since there isa complete refusal to report on the e-mails coming from the IPCC, I dare you to interview Lord Christoppher Moncton. Heck I double dog dare ya..

Ted   November 30th, 2009 9:34 am ET

As a financial adviser of over 40 years experience with financial planning I must say this spend, spend and spend mentality did ruin our country. You just cannot spend more than you have, otherwise you will go bankrupt as an individual or as a business.
If the USA was a business than under the laws our government had to declare bankrupcy a long time ago.

And who are the beneficiaries this go to shopping craze? Very few american jobs are protected with it, what you buy is usually made in China, India, Bangladesh. Brazil or similar places. Their industry is booming and we are getting poor.

Dodie   November 30th, 2009 1:05 pm ET

@ Ted

Just the person I need to talk to. I am always in need of financial advise... :~)

You certainly have those numbers correct. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize; if more goes out then comes in = bankruptsy! I never understood how Americans, some of which are quite intelligent, could never understand this simple concept.

And, I could never understand, in the past 8 years, why America has been spending more and receiving less! Its called a financial catastrophe!!!

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