Thanksgiving quickly approaches – we have a less than a week left to brine that bird and expand our stomachs, a tradition that many of us hold near and dear to our hearts. Another American tradition? Saving up our paychecks to spend on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
Post-Thanksgiving sales have occurred since before it was deemed “Black Friday.” In 1939, the nation’s retailers requested that President Franklin D. Roosevelt move Thanksgiving day. That year, Thanksgiving fell on the last day of November, giving shoppers little time for their holiday shopping. Roosevelt acquiesced, and moved up the holiday to to November 23rd, giving retailers the opportunity to let the holiday sales loose on consumers a week early.
But where did the term Black Friday originate? Although hotly debated, most believe that it comes from Philadelphia. In the 1950s, the Philly police force referred to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday due to the rowdy crowds, traffic congestion and general bedlam that was associated with the start of the holiday shopping season.
Despite Philadelphia’s use of the term, Black Friday as the official name of the shopping day didn’t spread to until the mid 1980s – and even then, it was not widely used. Initially, merchants attempted to rename the holiday “Big Friday” to move away from the negative connotations of Black Friday, but somehow, it never stuck.
And so, we have Black Friday, that nutty day where shoppers cause stampedes and inspire acts of violence and chaos, all in the spirit of holiday shopping. However, Black Friday sales have been on the decline in recent years, due to e-commerce and changes in American’s shopping habits.
According to the National Retail Federation, more than 151 million people shopped during Black Friday weekend in 2015, with average spending per person totaling $299.60. While brick and mortar sales on Black Friday fell from $11.6 billion in 2014 to $10.4 billion in 2015, online sales jumped 14 percent on Black Friday, bringing in a total of 2.72 million.
Perhaps in a few decades, Black Friday will just be another day for lounging around in pants with elastic waistbands.