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We have our fingers on the pulse of global retail


22 November 2016

For millions of people in the US and around the globe, Black Friday is one of the most highly anticipated shopping days of the year. Shoppers enjoy massive retail discounts, and it is considered the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Always falling on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US, this year’s annual retail shopping bonanza is just a few days away, and together with Cyber Monday, it’s expected to become the biggest period of shopping – both offline and online – the world has ever seen!

And while everyone is aware that Black Friday has become synonymous with crazy shopping, tempting bargains and massive crowds, do you really know how it all began and how this major one-day shopping event got its name?


As with most world events, there are different theories on how Black Friday came to life and how it got its unusual name. According to the most popular one, the term ‘Black Friday’ was coined in the 1960s to mark the kick-off of the Christmas shopping season in the US, when retailers were about to start making a profit again after months of slow sales. Back then, when accounting records were kept by hand, red ink indicated a loss, and black ink referred to a profit; so ‘Black Friday’ was the first day retailers went ‘into the black’.

According to another theory, a Philadelphia traffic cop coined it in the late ‘50s to describe his negative feelings about working over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The term was also caught on by his co-workers, most of whom were stuck working 12-hour shifts on the day after Thanksgiving, dealing with the numerous holiday shoppers driving into downtown Philadelphia.

The first known usage of ‘Black Friday’ might also date back to 1951, when it referred to employees skipping out on work to enjoy the now standard four-day Thanksgiving weekend.


Whatever Black Friday’s actual history might be, as retailers began to realise that they could draw big crowds of shoppers by discounting prices, Black Friday gradually became that one day to shop, beating even last-minute Christmas sales.

Black Friday and traditional retail

Today, Black Friday is a frantic day, with many retailers opening up as early as 5am and long queues of people waiting anxiously outside the windows. Retailers usually offer numerous doorbuster deals and loss leaders to attract shoppers, even if the prices are so low that the store may not make a profit. Most large retailers post their Black Friday ads, coupons and offers online beforehand, giving consumers time to plan their purchases, while other companies wait until the last minute to release their Black Friday deals, hoping to create a greater buzz among shoppers.

The most shopped for items are electronics and toys, as they are usually the most drastically discounted ones, but shoppers can find a wide range of discounted products, ranging from home furnishings to apparel.

Black Friday goes online

As shoppers become more tech-savvy and time cautious, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to shop online on Black Friday, not wanting to wait outside in the early morning chill, battling over the last most-wanted item with a bunch of other exhilarated shoppers.

Moreover, most online retailers now have pre-Black Friday or special Thanksgiving sales, or even start their Black Friday campaigns as early as the beginning of November, so you may not even have to wait until the big day to save money and get a crazy-good value deal.

A Retailer’s guide to US marketplaces


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