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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Black Friday [Updated]

Originally published the day after Thanksgiving, November 25, 2005; updated November 27, 2007.

black_friday.jpg A bargain at any price.

When did they start calling it Black Friday. And when did they start calling it Black Friday without any explanation as to when and why this phrase got started. Apparently, this has become part of our everyday vernacular. Well, not everyday. I don't really care. I'm just blogging a moment in time.

Photo shot at the local hardware store late this afternoon. And, obviously well after the throngs of crazed bargain shoppers got there.

Update: Joe of What About the Plastic Animals has just updated his excellent scholarly research regarding the use of the term "Black Friday" to signify the day after Thanksgiving as a day of shopping: Black Friday Update. Very cool bar graph, Joe!

One more update: I can't resist linking to this. Our own Dave Heinzel interviewed on videotape the throngs of people camped at our local Best Buy for Black Friday. Go there for either an iPod or YouTube version.

Posted by Marie at November 27, 2007 1:06 AM


according to vh1's "i love the holidays," it's called that because it typically puts retailers' accounting back in the black. that seems a little dubious to me; i can't imagine any retailer choosing to operate in the red for 11 months of the year and then hope to make it all back in the christmas season.

Posted by: jason at November 25, 2005 10:57 PM

Jason, it's not quite like that. It's like "Tax Freedom Day" -- a day in the spring where you've made enough money to pay all your taxes for the year. Black Friday is (generally) the day where the retailer has made enough money to pay the year's operating expenses, and the rest of the money coming in is profit.

And now my side wonder: When they refer to the year, are they talking about a company's fiscal year, which usually ends 30 June, or 30 September? Or is it the calendar year?

And Marie: Beer's on me, kiddo. :)

Posted by: Ben at November 26, 2005 1:53 AM

Cow waste! The gift that keeps on giving!

My recollection, to be sharpened by actual attempted research later, is that the term Black Friday for the day after Thanksgiving came into use in the past decade. It's obviously the product of a marketing imagination (and marketed to people) unacquainted with the series of "Black" days that heralded the 1929 stock market crash and the beginning of the U.S. Great Depression. ...

Posted by: Dan at November 26, 2005 1:44 PM

Being closer to Washington I can get a much better deal.

Posted by: Kem White at November 26, 2005 3:24 PM

I was wondering the same thing about Black Friday. I did a quick Lexis-Nexis search of major newspapers for the phrase "black friday" occurring in November or December. Through yesterday the phrase was found 77 times this year. Last year it occurred 55 times in the entire two-month period. 2003 - 30 times; 2002 - 31; and 2001 - only 8 times. It jumps up to 20-25 times in the late-1990s but many of those hits were to other events called black friday.

Posted by: joe at November 27, 2005 12:04 PM

Thanks, Marie! I made the graph with Google Spreadsheet, or whatever it is called.

Posted by: Joe at November 27, 2007 6:10 PM

I was wondering the same thing -- why? It seems unlikely to me, too, that retailers will operate in the red every year for five or 11 months, whichever way you count the retail year. Bad choice of catch phrase. I like that slick LexisNexis search.

Posted by: Tropigal at December 9, 2007 7:08 AM