What is the origin of Black Friday? Where the tradition comes from and what it means

The origin of Black Friday is a short but very surprising one!
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    Many of us are looking forward to the incredible UK Black Friday deals for 2020, as it’s that one special day a year when big-name retailers around the country like John Lewis, Asda and Argos announce money-saving deals on everything from electronics to baby clothes – but what is the origin of Black Friday? As the name has changed meaning over the years, going from signifying total financial ruin to amazing money-saving deals, the tradition behind the phrase has been lost. 

    From the brothers on Wall Street who lost everything to the police in Philadelphia, to the stores that we know and love today, this is where the phrase ‘Black Friday’ came from. 

    What is the origin of Black Friday?

    In 1869, two financiers on Wall Street called Jim Fisk and Jay Gould bought a huge amount of gold in the hope of the value soaring dramatically. They were then planning on selling it for a huge profit but before they could, the gold market crashed in the US and the men lost it all. The fateful event was called ‘Black Friday’ as at the time, catastrophic days were referred to as ‘black’. 

    It wasn’t until the 1950s that the phrase was used in relation to shopping, so this is when the origin of Black Friday really started. November 27, Black Friday, come in the days following the American holiday of Thanksgiving. In Philadelphia, huge crowds of shoppers and shop-lifters, tourists and pretty much every other type of person used to come into the city on this day for the Army-Navy football game. The crowds would create absolute chaos and because of it, all police officers had to work for long hours that day to try and control the hoards of people. 

    They used the phrase ‘Black Friday’ to refer to this difficult day. But it was bad for advertising for the city, so some tried to change it to ‘Big Friday’. Not quite as catchy, we have to admit. 

    By the end of 1980s, all across America, ‘Black Friday’ was commonly used to refer to the sales (and masses of people who went to them) that took place around November 27 after the Thanksgiving holiday. This is also because it refers to retailers, who profited greatly over that one weekend, having profits or otherwise being “in the black”. This phrase comes from how accountants used black ink to denote profits in their books, as opposed to red ink which was used to record losses. 

    How did Black Friday come to the UK?

    London oxford street, origin of Black Friday coming to the UK

    Credit: Getty

    The American shopping giant, Amazon is the Black Friday origin story for the UK as they first brought Black Friday to the UK in 2010, when they promoted a selection of discounts to their customers for just one day. The online retailer also brought their Prime Day 2020 deals to the UK as well some years later. 

    Three years ago, American-owned supermarket Asda then followed suit and this is how the origin of Black Friday began in the UK as we know it today. This one really got the ball rolling as the chaos came to Asda’s aisles, with customers fighting in each other for televisions and discounted gadgets. Since then, almost every big-name store (we’re looking at the Tesco Black Friday 2020 deals especially this year) in the country offers some deals for the Black Friday weekend right up into Cyber Monday.

    Cyber Monday, you ask? The two have a bit of rivalry in the retail world, with customers constantly thinking Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday – which is better? It turns out, there’s more difference than you might think. 

    Do other countries have Black Friday?

    You’ve probably seen the scenes from America during Black Friday, when customers are pushing at the doors to get them open, launching themselves into the aisles to secure absolutely phenomenal deals on products for upcoming holidays. But it’s not just the US that loves a bargain, as in France, Germany, Romania, India and Brazil, Black Friday is also a long-awaited day in the retail calendar. They call it the same thing and similar traditions occur, coming from the same origin of Black Friday, with electronics and clothes at the focus of the discounts.

    But elsewhere in the world, while the idea might be the same, what they call ‘Black Friday’ is very different. In Mexico, “El Buen Fin” (translated to “the good end) is their day of sales and in the United Arab Emirates, it’s actually called “White Friday” instead. China also offers deals on one special day of the year – Singles’ Day! On November 11, the anti-Valentines’ Day celebration kicks off with the world’s largest 24-hour shopping extravaganza.

    Why does it feel like Black Friday gets longer every year?

    If it’s starting to feel like Black Friday is actually the longest day of the year, then you’d be right since most of the deals start weeks before the weekend and continue for long afterwards. Now we’re in the age of coronavirus, some stores like high-street pharmacy, Boots are extending their offers for the whole month of November.

    During the lockdown, the retailer saw an unprecedented demand for their items and many customers were stuck waiting in online queues for hours. This is why the Boots Black Friday sale has been extended, so that shoppers can secure themselves those priceless in-store deals, without having to wait for hours outside under social distancing guidelines or in the online queue.

    That’s not all though, as the first Monday after Black Friday is called Cyber Monday and sees hundreds more deals flood the websites. In the last few years, the two days have battled it out and shoppers have debated whether Black Friday or Cyber Monday was better for discounts. But with deals spreading out across the holiday season, these are the two days to head for if you’re looking for some of the best deals for Christmas shopping or the holiday season.

    Amazon, however, is particularly famous for having seemingly never-ending deals. This might be because their Amazon Prime Day, another notorious event in the Christmas shopping calendar that sees prices slashed on everything from the Amazon baby product deals to electronics and all across the whole site, is on October 13 and 14. So those looking for holiday bargains have four days in the space of two months where they can make their money go further.

    What kind of discounts can you get?

    Woman organising in-store where the origin of black friday began

    Credit: Getty

    All that chaos happens for a reason it seems, when you take a look at some of the incredible deals that are offered every Black Friday and in the weeks leading up to it. The Argos Black Friday sale is famous for have major reductions on tech, like Apple iPads, Google Nests, GoPros and Samsung televisions, while others offer tempting bargains on beautiful homeware, womenswear, menswear and kids’ stuff. We’re also expecting reductions on specific brands like the Black Friday Disney deals from the likes of Smyth’s, The Entertainer and very.co.uk.

    Whereas other retail sales, like the Wiggle Black Friday deals offer great discounts on sportswear and equipment. Ideal if you’re looking for a winter coat to wrap up in while you wait on the sidelines or a new pair of trainers to hit the gym with.

    READ MORE: Best Amazon Prime Day UK toys and games deals 2020 including Lego, Star Wars and more

    The Argos Black Friday sale will be much anticipated as well this year, as they deliver incredible discounts on everything from phones and laptops to health and beauty, gardening and DIY – and pretty much everything else you could think of.

    Shoppers go for these sales because more often than not, especially on those big-ticket items, you can get at least 20 per cent off if not up to 70 per cent, as we’ve seen in previous years.

    Did you know these interesting facts about the origin of Black Friday?

    Now we know all about the origin of Black Friday, check out these interesting facts about the big day…

    • In the gold market crash, US President Zachary Taylor’s brother was financially ruined.
    • The Philadelphia Police department were the first ones to coin the term ‘Black Friday’.
    • Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year – that’s the Saturday before Christmas.
    • Black Friday sales have only ever declined in one year – the 2008 recession.
    • Americans are twice as likely to take part in Black Friday than people in the UK.
    • In 2019, customers spent an average of £97 on Black Friday – above the monthly average of £76 (source: awin.com).
    • Last year, the UK broke European shopping records for having the most spending during Black Friday – around £8.57 billion was spent.
    • In 2018, clothing was the most-purchased product in the Black Friday sales. Closely following behind was gadgets, electronics, computer games and books.
    • In 2017, customers planned to shop the most at Amazon during Black Friday. The second most popular was Argos, followed by Currys PC World and Boots.
    • For 2020, over half all people looking to shop on Black Friday intend to do it all online. Less than 10 per cent of people are looking to just go into the shops.
    • Last year, men spent more than women on Black Friday – by £74.
    • The region of East Anglia spent the most on Black Friday in 2019, with East Midlands coming in second and London in third.

    With the origin of Black Friday in mind, we’re getting more and more excited for the big weekend!