Why Is It Called Black Friday? Everything You Need To Know

Happy family Black Friday shopping

Black Friday is known as one of the biggest shopping days in the country. Every year, millions of people all set their alarm clocks to rise before the sun in order to get the best deals on their favorite items. Over the last few decades, this day has become an unofficial holiday in this country. Indeed, it is one of the most highly anticipated days of the year. And while many people look forward to this day, only a few actually know the story of how this day came to be. Keep reading to find out why the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday.

How Did Black Friday Get Its Name?

Black Friday is a relatively new event. In fact, before the 1950s, the term “Black Friday” was not a common name or phrase. Even though this day was created a little over half a century ago, historians have a hard time agreeing on why the day after Thanksgiving is referred to as Black Friday.

Here is a look at some of the different theories about how Black Friday got its name.

1. Large Amounts of Traffic

One of the most probable theories is that the holiday got its name in the late 1950s in Philadelphia. The legend goes that the police officers and bus drivers in Philadelphia would refer to this day as “Black Friday” because it was the day after Thanksgiving and the day before the Army-Navy game.

Back then, this particular day would bring large crowds of people to the city. And while that was great news for the local merchants, the cops and other public servants dreaded this day because it meant that they would have to work overtime to keep the streets safe.

2. Worker Shortage

Some people theorized that the term “Black Friday” describes how employers felt on this day. Because so many people travel out of town for Thanksgiving, many employees would call in sick to work the next day. This left employers scrambling to try and figure out how to make their business stay open while being short-handed.

3. Financial Boost for Retailers

There is another theory that states that most retailers spent most of the year at a financial loss, otherwise known as “in the red.” However, the day after Thanksgiving, they finally made enough sales to earn a profit and move from the red one to the black zone.  This phrase really started to take off in the '80s. However, in order to make this day sound more appealing, some retailers tried to change the name of this day to “Big Friday,” but that name never really caught on.

How Do Retailers Get Customers to Their Stores on Black Friday?

Today, Black Friday has evolved to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many of the big-box stores will open early on and stay open later than usual. Even with the extended hours, there are still only so many hours in a day, which makes it difficult to visit all of your favorite stores.

Retailers understand that you will only be able to choose a few different stores to shop at on that day. So, in order to persuade more people to come to their store, retailers offer big discounts on some of their most popular items.

To give you an idea of how much money you can save when you shop on Black Friday, here is a look at some of the average percentage discounts that some of the big-named retailers were offering last year:

  • JC Penny had an average discount of 56.7%
  • Kohl's offered its customers an average discount of 51.9%
  • Macy's offered average discounts of 56%
  • Belk had average discounts of 50%
  • GameStop's average discount was around 38%

This year, even more stores offer discounts just as big as those offered in 2020.

Black Friday Has a Happier Meaning Today

A couple going Black Friday shopping.
A young man pointing to a shop window to show clothing item his likes to his girlfriend.

No matter which theory you believe is true, today, Black Friday has a much happier meaning. Instead of conjuring up feelings of dread, it brings up feelings of excitement and happiness. To prolong the happy feeling, many retailers are choosing to extend the deals to last throughout the weekend.

Last year, Walmart started its Black Friday sale on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The Wednesday sale was online-only, but the in-store sales extravaganza started on Friday and lasted until Sunday night. This year, Walmart is expected to follow the same schedule as it continues to be one of the most popular Black Friday destinations.

Target is another popular retailer that has droves of people flocking to its store on Black Friday. Unlike its competitors, Target doesn't usually open its doors until 7 am EST. That is a few hours later than other stores open their doors. However, the later opening times do not seem to affect its sales. They also offer exciting online deals as well that usually last all weekend.

Black Friday Will Look a Little Different This Year

Black Friday has changed a lot since it was first introduced to the public. This year, the iconic shopping day will continue to change even more. Because of Covid-19, more people chose to shop online last year. Retailers are expecting a large number of customers to continue to log onto their computers to do their shopping again this year. That is why many retailers will be focusing on their online customers to get them to their targeted sales numbers on Black Friday. In fact, Amazon started to post some of their Black Friday deals in October to get ready for the big day on November 26th.

Also, this year, most retailers will have their doors closed on Thanksgiving. In the past, places like Walmart and other big retailers remained open on Thanksgiving. However, just like last year, many of them won't open their doors until Friday morning.