The Black, RED, and Grey of Black Friday

Black Friday has become an iconic day during the festive season, taking the role of largely ringing in the following month of celebrations, shopping, and sales. As the Friday that follows Thanksgiving Thursday, the originally American day has come to impact shoppers on a global level in recent years. But, where does this day of crazy discounts and manic sale-hungry shoppers originate?

A Dark History?

There has been confusion when it comes to the origins of the day. There is a dark myth that credits the term Black Friday to the days of slave trading and the discounted prices that laborers would be sold at, in the aims of helping plantation owners grow their working teams before the harsh winter months. However, the modern-day conception of Black Friday originates from the extended shifts of policemen over the Thanksgiving weekend.

A Football Fan Frenzy

Photo by Keith Johnston on Unsplash

Crowds and chaos have always been synonymous with the weekend that follows a day of feasting and family. However, in the 1950s the original weekends of mayhem ensued because of the Army-Navy football game that was held on Thanksgiving Saturday in Philadelphia. Because of the football fans, tourists, and weekend-shoppers that would flock to the streets, the police force was on duty for longer hours to fight the crowds and frenzy. While the rest of the city would enjoy their Friday off and indulge in a four day weekend, the policemen were forced to fight through their mayhem. The sheer extent of the chaos would also lend itself to opportunistic shoplifters as they took advantage of the anonymity within hoards of people, leading to even more issues for the policemen on duty during the weekend.

Back To Black

Despite the reality behind the retailer’s nightmares, a more positive approach has recently been painted for this shopping day. Black Friday has become known as one of the biggest retail days of the year, with overall holiday sales accounting for almost 20% of total profits. Because of this, some companies have taken the “Red to Black” perspective on the name of “Black Friday”. This refers to the idea that the sales made over the weekend take many businesses from “the red” (being in debt), into “the black” (making a profit). 

By the 1990s the term Black Friday as a reference to a holiday shopping day was widespread and was referred to by name in television commercials. 

Let’s Talk Numbers

Unsurprisingly, Black Friday sales account for quite a significant amount of the revenue earned over the festive shopping season. But, these days, it has spread further than the borders of the United States. While the growth in other countries has been slow, the impact of discounts and online shopping has been significant. In 2019, $7.4 billion was spent in the US on online Black Friday sales alone. Similarly, £8.6 billion was spent across all channels in the UK, with 70.65% of those sales coming from online shoppers.

Considering the state of the world and the adjusted approach we have all had to make towards public spaces in recent times, online sales have increased by 8% this year and surpassed 100 million shoppers taking to their laptop screens - as opposed to snaking through queues and fighting over the last pair of Airpods, much of which would not involve appropriate social distancing protocols.

Photo by Heamosoo Kim on Unsplash

It’s difficult to acknowledge Black Friday without a nod at the new kid on the block: Cyber Monday. Originally created for the online shopper amongst us, this event was an expected hit this year. The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by Ellen Davis, senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives for the National Retail Federation. She labeled the Monday after Thanksgiving as such because of the repeated spike in online revenue on the same day year after year. And so, an accidental shopping day has turned into another one of the most successful retail days of the year. 

While Black Friday comes around each year with higher and higher discounts and profits, it is important to stay aware of those that are taking part in the sale. In an infamous marketing strategy, a fast-fashion retailer took on a rather extreme approach this year. Selling their products at up to 99% off, with certain items marked down to less than a pound, this, quite obviously, calls into question the quality of the clothing and the working environments of those manufacturing the clothing. As is always the case with sales and discounted products, one naturally begins to question the true cost of the garments that can seamlessly be discounted by almost 100%.

While there may be different views on approaches to sales and discounts, within the instability that 2020 has brought the fashion industry, one can argue that such sales may have been the only way that some brands could stay afloat. However, there can be no compromise on the basic values of human respect, dignity, and a sustainable approach to how those pieces are produced and manufactured.