The Story Behind…

The Story Behind...

Marketers used to whisper the words Black Friday with reverence and awe, but the trend for combining adjectives with days of the week has birthed a number of new dates to get excited about.

Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, The New Black Friday, Black Thursday; we’re left wondering what do they all mean, and what exactly was the deal with Black Friday to begin with?

So what is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving Day in the US. It marks the unofficial start of the ‘holiday shopping season’ for most Americans and is distinguished by huge discounts on a variety of sought after consumer goods. Black Friday has consistently been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, owing in part to the large number of US States that recognize the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday for State Government officials.

There are conflicting theories on where the term originates, although the most prevalent story comes from Philadelphia, with police and city officials coining the term to describe the chaos of congestion and pedestrian traffic caused by hordes of holiday shoppers. A more recent alternative has been that retailers usually operate at a loss (in the red) for most of the year, finally turning profits (in the black) following the huge influx of sales on Black Friday.

It’s a pseudo-holiday with a huge amount of hype, with the big retailers traditionally marketing their anticipated Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving, the day before. You can see an almost complete history of adverts from the biggest retailers in the US at

Crossing the pond.
Black Friday has already made its way to Britain as well as plenty of other nations outside of North America. Wal-Mart owned supermarket chain ASDA was one of the first to get in on the shopping phenomenon, slashing the prices of electrical goods. The public responded in an atypical British fashion by stampeding through aisles to wrestle the goods from shelves, resulting in injuries in some stores. You can see how ASDA handled the hype train here.

Many UK retailers have been quick to adopt the holiday, even UK staple Argos have been running a Black Friday countdown this year. With the prominence of American-owned, internationally trading online retailers like Amazon and the Apple Store, we can expect to see it spread even further in the years to come.

Contenders for the throne.
The chaos surrounding Black Friday is notorious in the US, with brawling, stampedes and riots being commonly reported. You can get a good idea of the carnage here.

Given the worrying trend for violence in previous years, it isn’t surprising that just 28% of consumers plan to step foot in-store this Black Friday.

And it’s not just the chaos curbing enthusiasm this year; with the success of Black Friday sales to date, many retailers are extending their promotional periods earlier into the year, jockeying to own the holiday. With the big brands opening up their doors earlier and earlier to sate the baying crowds, it’s no surprise that Black Friday eventually became Black Thursday. Shoppers in the US can now begin their holiday shopping just hours after finishing Thanksgiving lunch, as Black Friday ‘celebrations’ now start as early as 5pm on Thanksgiving Day.

This year, WalMart unveils its New Black Friday, a five day spending extravaganza aimed at thinning the madness out over a longer period. Starting on Thanksgiving morning, the retail giant will be offering discounts and price-cuts over the weekend, with each day seeing deals in different departments.

Market analysts are also predicting the birth of Super Saturday, as America shoppers elect to forgo the traditional Friday crush, and prefer to spend their Thanksgiving Day with their family rather than gaggles of bargain hunters.

And of course there’s the rise of, the admittedly less sexy, Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday is the shopping event that happens nowhere and everywhere all at once, consisting of billions of dollars spent with e-tailers during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The term was coined after research showed that the Monday after Thanksgiving had become the biggest online shopping date of the year. Marketers where quick to latch on to the phenomenon, with retailers offering deals on their most coveted products exclusively through their ecommerce sites. You can find a comprehensive list of reasons to shop online this year over at Huff Post.

It seems that no-one really knows what the new big shopping trend is going to be, but as Robert Klara reports, it probably isn’t Black Friday. But that isn’t going to stop us from guessing. And it’s a safe bet to say it’s happening in November.

Black Friday is dead.

Long live Black November.


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