Wondering How Black Friday Got its Name?

Consumers in the US and across the world look for great bargains today -- Black Friday. The history behind it is fascinating

V. Kumara Swamy Updated: Nov 29, 2019 17:28:57 IST
Wondering How Black Friday Got its Name?

‘Black Friday’-- the day after Thanksgiving Day, which is the fourth Thursday of November in the US--is celebrated as the most important shopping event of the year. Today, November 29, happens to be Black Friday, a holiday in the US every year for several decades and is considered the beginning of the shopping season for Christmas. What makes Black Friday a huge consumer event is also the fact that retailers across the US and, now globally, offer super discounts on products on this day. 

Each year, consumers in the US spend scores of billions of dollars on Black Friday. According to a study, in 2005 Black Friday overtook the Saturday before Christmas Day, in the US, as the busiest shopping day of the year. It has retained that spot since then growing each year. For instance, last year, according to one estimate, around USD 6 billion was spent on buying products online on Black Friday. Physical stores sell many times the e-commerce sites on this day.

But even the origin of the term, ‘Black Friday’ itself is disputed. While some say that it was coined originally in Philadelphia in the late '50s or early '60s because of massive post-Thanksgiving traffic jams in the city, others take it a century back, all the way to September 24, 1869, when gold prices crashed leading to mayhem on Wall Street. Then there are those who say that the term has its roots in accounting. Since retail outlets booked their profit numbers in black and losses in red, it was said that the day after Thanksgiving was considered to be highly profitable and almost every retail store noted them in black and hence called the “Black Friday”.

The event gained in prominence in the 1990s as it came to be known for huge discounts and massive stampedes in stores across the US even leading to casualties. In fact, there is a website that maintains a record of deaths and injuries on Black Friday over the years.

According to BlackFridayDeathCount.Com there have been 12 deaths and 17 injuries since 2006.

Then there are also those who oppose Black Friday and celebrate it as ‘Buy Nothing Day’ since 1997. Some even hold anti-Black Friday protests.

 India has not remained untouched by this global phenomenon. It was e-Bay, the e-commerce website, which set the ball rolling in 2015 when it launched the Black Friday sale in India. Although the festive season in India mostly ends with Diwali, Black Friday continues to evoke a great deal of interest. Since morning today, many e-commerce sites are offering discounts. 

It's, of course, your choice to join the stampede or quietly celebrate it as the ‘Buy Nothing Day.’

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