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When Is Black Friday?

Updated on December 11, 2011

In late October, retailers start to bombard the masses with pre-holiday sale news in hopes of luring in early Christmas shoppers. While this draws some sales, the savvy shopper waits for Black Friday. When is Black Friday? It's the day following Thanksgiving. and it has the reputation of being the biggest shopping day of the year.

Black Friday biggest shopping day of the year.
Black Friday biggest shopping day of the year.

How Black Friday Started

The roots of what we call Black Friday today actually started during the difficult economic era known as the Great Depression. At that time Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of the month and marked the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Department stores used this concept to their advantage. They started to advertise Christmas specials and scheduled events such as Christmas parades. The most famous of these parades still occurs today—the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which first ran in 1924.

By 1939, the Great Depression had the economy in dire straits. Retailers pleaded with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the celebration of Thanksgiving up one week to extend the shopping season. He did so, but the change wasn't announced until October. With the late announcement, little changed and retailers saw no boost in the economy that first year.

It wasn't until the late 1960s that the term "Black Friday" was coined to describe the rush of crowds eager to start their holiday shopping the day following Thanksgiving.

Why It's Called Black Friday

The term Black Friday was coined due to the high volume of sales on that Friday following Thanksgiving. Store ledgers were in the black rather than in the red; often for the first time that year.

Evolution of the Black Friday Tradition

By the 1990s, Black Friday was unofficially recognized as the day to find great deals at the start of the holiday season. It has proven to be the biggest shopping day of the year every year since 2002 with the exception of 2004. According to Shopper Trak it is the day to find the deepest discounts.

Things have grown beyond standing in line for doors to open early. Now people camp out overnight to get first chance at store sales. Frenzied crowds have been known to tear store doors off their hinges, and in 2008 even trampled a Wal-mart employee to death when he went to unlock the doors.

You can even buy a Black Friday app for your phone.

Black Friday Strategies

Holiday Creep

Black Friday is still the day after Thanksgiving, but stores have gradually tried to expand Black Friday sales revenue. This year some stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day. While people may think these retailers are being greedy, in some cases retailers are just trying to survive, just like during the Great Depression.

While expanded store hours may help retailers make or break it, many people complain about the holiday "creep." It is not uncommon to see Christmas decorations and music in stores before Halloween. The concern is that we are losing the Thanksgiving holiday in all the hoopla.

If that's your concern, there's something you can do about it. Don't shop until after Thanksgiving. After all, sales do run throughout December. If extra store hours and specials don't draw in the shoppers, they'll revert to a more traditional Black Friday approach.


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    • Donna Sundblad profile image

      Donna Sundblad 6 years ago from Georgia

      I agree 100% Donna. I wonder how many people would celebrate the holiday if there were no gifts involved.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      Good article and nice research on the history of this retailer's dream. However, I do agree that unrestrained consumerism is getting way out of hand as evidenced by the reported pepper spray event at Wal-mart just to give someone the jump on snagging a video gaming system. It's a disturbing commentary on the decline of morals and values when a gaming system is more important than not doing harm to another human being.