Black Friday: A look into its Origin and the Shopping Phenomenon

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

By Tammy Murga
Signal Staff Writer

Turkey and pumpkin pie are heavily linked with Thanksgiving, but nowadays, Black Friday seems to have become just as synonymous with the annual holiday.

The shopping phenomenon has become the most popular day to find the best deals on the year’s hottest items, ranging from electronics and toys to cars.

Around the U.S., millions of consumers kick off their holiday shopping season either online or at stores, many camping out just outside retailers Thursday night to be the first customers in line to get their hands on the latest iPhone or flat-screen television.

“Even with all the chaos that can come with Black Friday, it is tons of fun and interesting to see how business and shopping has changed on this one day,” said Stephani Bryden, operational manager at Best Buy on Bouquet Canyon Road.

Perhaps less known, however, is Black Friday’s origin, with several myths claiming its start as far back as 1869.

The holiday shopping season
Gift-giving has occurred for as long as history can trace back, but the holiday shopping season is more closely tied to modern-day consumerism. Even with today’s successful e-commerce, Black Friday is mostly connected with visits to shopping malls, outlets and other retail centers.

That’s because shoppers know that stores remain open for business, some with extended operation hours, during the holiday season.

A perfect opportunity to make that known has been during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the world’s largest parade held in New York City. With millions watching, local and national retailers would sponsor the event and let viewers know they could get their shopping done in time.

But how did the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas become known as the holiday season?

In 1941, Congress passed legislation to mark the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and retailers and businesses.

“Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November,” according to the Center for Legislative Archives.

Previously, the holiday fell on the last Thursday of the month until 1939, leaving less than 24 days of holiday shopping days. This prompted businesses to help establish a longer shopping season for consumers while improving an economy shaken by the Great Depression.

The birth of the term
The infamous “Black Friday” term was first applied to a financial crisis, rather than anything shopping-related, according to the History Channel.

There are a few different theories, but modern usage of the term is thought to stem from a Philadelphia mob scene in the 1950s.

The term was used by police to describe the hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists entering the city after Thanksgiving ahead of the Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year to shop, according to Bonnie Taylor-Blake, a neuroscience researcher at the University of North Carolina.

The term quickly caught on with Philly cops and the rest of the city, as the long lines and shopping frenzy grew in stores, even shoplifting.

The shopping phenomenon
Now including Cyber Monday — the online version of Black Friday — more than 174 million Americans shopped by the end of the holiday weekend in 2017, according to a report by the National Retail Federation.

The growing phenomenon beat the 164 estimated shoppers the year before, and those numbers may increase in 2018.

With that much foot traffic expected at multiple stores every year, businesses adjust operations to handle the crowds best.

At Best Buy, Bryden said they expect three times as many customers on Black Friday than of its usual 400 to 900 shoppers a day. Preparation is key, she said.

“We have a plan in place,” said Bryden. “From employees at the front door welcoming those that come early to then running to the departments to help out and then checking them out at the lines. It’s about organization and having a plan.”

The operational manager said the Bouquet Canyon store had not experienced fights among shoppers as sometimes seen at other locations. Over the last two years, the store hired security to continue to ensure safe shopping and has strategically increased the number of products for sale.

At Walmart, shoppers will have the chance to bypass the checkout counters and purchase items with the help of employees stationed at the aisles. Customers can click on the retailer’s app and pinpoint the location of the item on their holiday list. The service will be available at all Walmart locations just in time for Black Friday, a spokesperson at the Saugus location said.

At the Valencia Town Center, perhaps one of the most popular places to shop on Black Friday in the Santa Clarita Valley, extended hours for the holiday shopping day are already in place to run from 6 a.m. to midnight on Thursday, and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS