So it’s all Black-Friday this and Black-Friday that around Thanksgiving with it being the unofficial start of the annual Christmas shopping season. But why isn’t it Blue Friday or Purple Friday or something else? And is it still the big deal to retailers it once was?
The E-T staff did a little snooping on the topic and discovered that the term seems to have originated in the mid 1960s at the Philadelphia Police Department of all places.
The earliest use of the term in print that we could find was - according to an article in the Chicago Tribune titled “Black Friday - Why and When?” - in an ad run in 1966 by a rare-stamp dealer, Earl Apfelbaum, in which he said the term ”Black Friday” was used by the Philadelphia police to to describe the trouble that always ensued the day after Thanksgiving
To the Philly PD the day after Thanksgiving was anything but wonderful - rather, it meant that because of Christmas holiday sales in retail stores, the streets were jammed with traffic and therefore there were more accidents, sidewalks were overflowing with pedestrians bumping into each other and the occasional disgruntled shopper punching somebody in the nose, and stores were so crowded with people that Black Friday sometimes led to a mob mentality and group violence.
Merry Christmas, right?
The other description of the term Black Friday is that it’s the day of the year that retailers finally go from red ink on their accounting ledgers - meaning losing money - to BLACK ink, meaning they are turning a profit for the year at last.
Either way you want to frame the origin[s] of the term Black Friday - cops or accountants - its direct economic impact - while still very significant - has definitely diminished considerably lately.
For the first time - when not in a recession - spending on Black Friday in the US dropped to $50.9 billion in 2014, a descent of 11 percent from 2013.
That’s attributed to two major factors: “Christmas creep” and the Amazon phenomenon.
Christmas creep? What the heck is that? Well, basically, in means that the Christmas shopping season has been creeping up on us earlier and earlier each year.
The British newspaper, the Daily Mail may have originated the term in an article published on August 9, 2006 in which it was said: “With more than a third of the year still to go and the summer holidays in full swing, Harrods launched its Christmas shop …. Despite the fact the opening will come some 143 days before Christmas, Selfridges insists that shoppers are already hankering for sleigh bells, snow and ideas for festive gifts. … The phenomenon of Christmas creep is being seen across the major retailers.”
And then of course there’s the “Amazon phenomenon,” which simply means that more and more people are opting out of the retail store crush and shopping online - particularly those who use the Amazon Prime service offering free two-day shipping and other bonuses.
Way back in January of 2012, in an article for the online magazine, The Balance, Jason Calacanis wrote, “There are two types of people in the world: those with Amazon Prime and those without. How you think about consumption, commerce and your personal time is radically different depending on if you've join the cult -- yet.
“And to be clear, Prime is a cult you will be joining,” he predicted.
Tom Webster, of Edison Research writing that same year in his company’s newsletter predicted that 20 to 30 million people would be using Amazon Prime by this year, but he shot low; according to The Motley Fool in January of 2016:
“While Amazon does not release Prime membership numbers, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, LLC [CIRP] regularly analyzes buyer shopping patterns on the site to make its own well-educated guess as to how many there are.
"This analysis indicates that Amazon Prime now has 54 million U.S. members, spending on average about $1,100 per year, compared to about $600 per year for non-members, the research company said in a press release that looked at Q4 of 2015. This new estimate compares to an estimated 40 million U.S. members at the end of 2015, or an increase of 35%, according to previous CIRP figures.”
Wow. Add to those facts that virtually all major retailers now offer shopping via the Internet and you get the picture: In person shopping on Black Friday “ain’t what it usta be.” and the people at UPS, FedEx and the US Postal Service are busy buckaroos delivering all the stuff that we order online to our front porches.
So there you have it. Black Friday in a nutshell. Whether you are going out in person or doing your shopping with a click of your mouse - Happy Black Friday everybody!