We’ve all seen the videos of fights over computers and bust ups over cheap TVs, it’s that time of year again. Retail chaos ensues once more this Friday. For the third year, shoppers all over the UK will be getting their elbows at the ready to tackle the Black Friday sales. But where did it all begin?
Black Friday has been an event in America for decades. The day after Thanksgiving, hordes of people hit the malls to get their Christmas shopping sorted. Since the 1980s, US retailers have celebrated huge profits – going from ‘in the red’ to ‘in the black’– every year. That’s the story behind Black Friday as we know it, but the origin is actually very different.
The Story Behind Black Friday
Mythical beginnings of the term lead all the way back to the slave trade. According to this story, slave traders would offer discounted slaves to help plantation owners facing a tough winter. The story’s likelihood was quashed when the first documented use of the term came years after slavery was abolished.
Another rumour talks of employers struggling with short staffing due to sickness. In 1951, suspiciously high levels of employee illness were reported. Whether there was just a winter bug going round or it was down to eating a little too much Turkey, we don’t know.
First Documented Use
The term, Black Friday, was actually first used in 1869 when nationwide bankruptcy hit America. Two criminal Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, teamed up to buy as much of the nation’s gold as they could in order to sell it for jaw-dropping profits. Unfortunately for them – and much of the US – the conspiracy was uncovered and the market collapsed sending people everywhere into bankruptcy.
Although this was the first official use of the term, the Black Friday that we are familiar with today came long after that tragedy.
In fact, the Black Friday that we know and love – or maybe hate – dates back to the 1950s. There are police reports that describe swarms of shoppers flooding the American city of Philadelphia ready for the annual Army-Navy football game.
The Philly police worked extra-long shifts to control the madness and shoplifting crime soared as thieves took advantage of the mayhem. This tradition continued and in the 1980s the ‘in the black’ connotation was pushed by retailers to remove the negativity surrounding the event. And so became pre-Christmas pandemonium.
In 2013, we experienced our first ‘real’ Black Friday in the UK. Amazon actually introduced their post-Thanksgiving sales in 2010, but it wasn’t until Asda launched their deals that it really became a shopping sensation this side of the pond.
Three years ago, 435 million was spent in just one day. In 2015, that figure rose to an incredible 1.1 billion for Black Friday, and 3.3 billion over the weekend. Estimations are telling us that we are expected to spend an unbelievable 5 billion between this Thursday and Cyber Monday. Although this is thought of as the busiest shopping weekend in the year, the last weekend before Christmas actually sees people splashing more cash – we’ll never escape those pesky last minute shoppers!
The Move to Online
With the growth of internet accessibility and Cyber Monday, online Black Friday sales have surged in popularity. People are choosing to stay snuggled up on the sofa with their laptops and tablets to avoid battling the frenzy in store, and we can’t blame them! Reports of stampedes, biting, punching, kicking and teary-eyed employees are enough to put even the most determined bargain hunters off.