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The history of Black Friday holiday shopping

The history of Black Friday holiday shopping

Over the last few months we’ve been chatting a lot about holiday strategies with our digital marketing clients. With several weeks of holiday blogs under our belt and strategies off and running for our beloved clients, we got to thinking…when and how did Black Friday even start?

Upon our research, we discovered Black Friday started a lot sooner than we thought. Clearly, we all thought Black Friday started with the riot of Cabbage Patch Dolls in 1983. We were way off.

Turns out, the shopping free-for-all likely began back in the late nineteenth century. Back then store-sponsored Thanksgiving parades were a very common event that hosted Santa Clause at the end of each parade. Once Santa’s presence graced the crowd, holiday shopping began.

The hiccup? Thanksgiving used to be recognized (by most states) on the last Thursday of November up until 1941. On December 26th, 1941, Congress passed a law changing Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November.


Why? Business leaders were desperate to add another week of holiday shopping to make more money following the Great Depression in 1939. Retailers feared bankruptcy due to a short holiday shopping season.

Thus, began a “new” Thanksgiving and new holiday shopping season!

Why Black Friday?

We know what your next question is. Why is it called Black Friday? Researches share a few ideas to its origin.

In the 1800s, the term was used to reference the stock market crash.

Another, stemming from retailers acknowledging their huge sales as an opportunity to “get in the black” and become profitable for the year.

The less positive story comes from police officers, cab drivers, and street drivers in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. Turns out, the annual Army-Navy football game was played in Philly the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The slew of people that came far and wide to attend the game was ideal for retailers, but a nightmare for anyone that worked and navigated their way on the streets. Thus, referring to the commercial day as “Black Friday”.

Other Black Friday Facts:

Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. Big meals make big… well, you get the idea here.

Black Friday wasn’t officially the busiest shopping day of the year until 2001. The Saturday before Christmas was its predecessor.

Walmart was the first to break Black Friday tradition and opened their store on the evening of Thanksgiving.

Apparently, twelve percent of Black Friday shoppers are drunk. (Can’t say we blame you! Please call an Uber or your sober Aunt Kathy for a ride.)

We’ll be sitting out this Black Friday, but wish you the best of luck on your holiday deals! ‘Tis the season!

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