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A little Black Friday history

By Michelle Lindsey
On November 20, 2016

Black Friday; For some these two words bring fun and excitement. Others dread the hustle and bustle of the day and look forward to staying home to eat Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. While there are many different reactions to the holiday and the chaos it brings, the day has a history of boosting business for store owners.

In 2015, More businesses opened their brick-and-mortar stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day, with the hopes of drawing in more sales. Sierra Murphy, Kirkwood Nursing student, said of Black Friday shopping, “I just don't really like that Black Friday shopping has started to take away from the holiday and spending time with family just to save a little money.”

According to practicalecommerce.com, “The significance of each of these three shopping days is declining as merchants offer discounts earlier in the year and continue through December.” Thanksgiving Day sales in 2015 saw $1.8 come in, while on Black Friday, $10.4 billion changed hands. These amounts seem like large ones until you also see that the year before, in 2014, spending was at $11.6 billion over the Thanksgiving weekend.

There has been controversy surrounding the term ‘Black Friday” over the years and with sales dropping year after year, the real story behind the term seems fitting. Speculation over whether the term has derogatory or negative connotations has been brought up in the media and online every year. History.com addresses both the false and accurate origins of the term.

The most common story floating around was expanded on by history.com “After an entire year of operating at a loss (“in the red”) stores would supposedly earn a profit (“went into the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving, because holiday shoppers blew so much money on discounted merchandise.” This concept was a new marketing tactic to draw in shoppers leery of the term in the 1980s. While this is a factual account, it isn’t where Black Friday originated from.

The birthing of Black Friday was in the 1950s. History.com also gives an in-depth account of the events leading up to the rearing of the term. Philadelphia police officers used the term amongst themselves to describe the chaos happening on their streets on the day after Thanksgiving. An Army-Navy football game was held on that Saturday every year, bringing hoards up people into the city. Instead of having a day off for the holiday, they were putting in long hours to be able to handle the crowds. This term transferred over to the shopping world because shoplifters were taking advantage of the crowds and making off with high dollar items.

Terrence Shulman of Jack L. Hayes International, Inc., an inventory shrinkage and control company, wrote about Black Friday on their website, saying, "The holidays can be the best of times or the worst of times for retailers and other businesses, and they can be the best or worst of times for customers, employees and loss prevention personnel. It’s vital to find balance, pay attention to detail, and manage the unique joyful noise and chaos this time of year brings."

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