Luis Ernesto Quintana Barney
(CNN Business) – Maybe you or someone you know is getting ready to go shopping on Black Friday, or Black Friday.
The unofficial start of the holiday season has turned into a day that helps retailers lure shoppers to their stores. It’s almost a tradition in America, but despite popular perception, the name has nothing to do with red or black ink on merchants’ budgets.
Black Friday began in the 1950s in Philadelphia.
Dozens of suburban shoppers poured into the city in the days after Thanksgiving, according to Bonnie Taylor Blake, a neuroscience researcher at the University of North Carolina. The city paid for huge sales and decorations before the Army-Navy football game on Saturday.
“It was a double whammy,” Taylor Blake told CNN. “Transportation cops were required to work 12-hour shifts, nobody could get out, and people flooded sidewalks, parking lots, and streets. The police had to deal with all of that and coin the term.”
You might be happier if you didn’t buy anything on Black Friday 1:03
City businessmen also began using the term to describe the long queues and shopping chaos in their stores. “It became this comedic reference to downtown Philly after Thanksgiving.”
In 1961, the idea of changing the name of the holiday to “Big Friday” was proposed so that one of the biggest shopping days would not have a negative connotation. But that didn’t work.
Over time, retailers learned to adopt the name and extended the shopping event to a day.
Around 2003, retailers increased store hours. That year, Kmart, Walmart, and Sears offered pre-dawn discounts starting at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. It was the same year that Black Friday became the most profitable shopping day of the year, according to data from the International Council of Malls. Prior to 2003, the most profitable shopping days in the United States were at the end of December.
In 2011, Walmart extended its hours again when its stores opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and remained open through Black Friday.
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With the popularity of the Internet, another shopping day was born in 2005: Cyber Monday. It was a marketing term from the National Retail Federation to reflect the shopping frenzy felt in physical stores on Black Friday. Cyber Monday’s popularity has exploded since then.
Shoppers said sales and discounts were the most important factor in choosing a store, followed by free shipping and a convenient location.
Catherine Fassel contributed to this story. Originally published November 2018 and updated November 2022.
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