So THAT's Why We Call It Black Friday

The reason isn't exactly... nice.

Whether you boycott it or indulge in the seasonal bargains, it’s fair to say that we are now a nation that takes part in Black Friday. This dubious tradition was, for a long while, just an American phenomenon, but for almost a decade, it’s been creeping into the British shopping experience, too.

For a long time, we tended to prefer a good Boxing Day sale over here, but as time has passed, it seems the need for pre-Christmas bargains has grown bigger and bigger. Makes sense, really.

But, why do we even call it Black Friday?

The origin of the name Black Friday

Despite the name now being tied to bargains and festive sales, the connotations weren’t always quite so cheery. According to NBC News, the term actually comes from the 1950s.

Police in Philadelphia complained that on the day after Thanksgiving, there was a huge influx of shoppers into the city that became so chaotic that the police had to bring in crowd control and referred to it as a “Black Friday”.

The term gained momentum with each passing year, much to the frustration of retailers, and they attempted to, uh, very creatively rename it “Big Friday”. However, this unsurprisingly failed.

Retailers then controlled the narrative and decided that the “black” in Black Friday didn’t refer to a dark day of crazed shoppers but instead a day that shoppers are “in the black”.

For those not in the know, “in the black” is a financial phrase often used to describe a business that’s performing well financially and profiting, as opposed to a business “in the red”, that is struggling financially and not profiting.

Why is Black Friday no longer just one day?

Well, because, capitalism.

No, seriously. Over time, retailers competed to see who could open earliest on the day – with some even opening on Thanksgiving itself (let’s all give thanks for reduced price bath bombs...). Eventually, this escalated to the point that Black Friday was closely followed by Cyber Monday, a day for online bargains.

These days expanded further out, and now in America, a lot of stores have Black November. Over here, meanwhile, we have shops taking part in week-long “Black Friday” sales both in-store and online with virtual waiting lists becoming common for high-end retailers such as Space NK.

Love it or hate it, it seems we won’t be stopping Black Friday sales any time soon.