Black Friday – sounds so depressing

Trouble in the run up to Christmas giving

You will no doubt have heard of Black Friday. Like Halloween, it’s a USA import designed by retailers to try and get you to spend money.  It takes place the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Black Friday falls on November 27, so you are likely to be bombarded with offers and discounts this week as Black Friday in the USA is traditionally the biggest retail sales day of the year. IMRG, the UK’s online retail association, reports that one in five of us shopped on Black Friday last year and that more than half of our purchases (55%) were made online. During “Cyber Weekend” which spans 27 – 30th November, so next week-end, Digital Strategy Consulting estimates that between us in the UK we will spend almost £2.2 billion online. Ebay says it expects 9m Brits will visit its website on Black Friday, buying 25 items every second. Main stream media like the Daily Mirror are full of guides on how to get the best deals. Most sales kick off at midnight or at 8am on the day, although they are getting earlier, with many retailers launching the offers the evening before or even at the start of this week.

But where did it come from and why “Black” which we normally associate with being a bad day? According to Wiki, the term was first recorded in a shopping context more than 50 years ago by Philadelphia police officers to describe the chaotic day after Thanksgiving when the city was overrun with the traffic of consumers flocking to the Christmas sales and sports fans travelling to the annual Army vs Navy American football game. The name may then have gained general use because it represents the day when many retailers move from making losses in the year to being “in the black” or making a profit for the year to date. In the USA, it has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005 and it has a reputation for turning mild-mannered shoppers into fierce bargain hunting maniacs. Fights frequently break out over the last reduced telly on the pile. Due to the near crowd riots that have become part and parcel of Black Friday, The Daily Telegraph last year christened the day “black and blue Friday”.

After last year’s chaotic scenes, and a financially disappointing time for some retailers such as Game, there are signs that maybe we, in the UK, won’t embrace Black Friday whole heartedly. Asda has expressed reservations about the Black Friday event and says its stores will not participate. Back in January, John Lewis said it was concerned about the disruption to normal Christmas trading patterns and that it might reign in its participation this year. On the other hand, the store said last week it has hired 2,000 extra staff to handle Black Friday deliveries.

In the USA retailers tried to rename the day “Big Friday”, but it didn’t stick. How about we start a campaign to call it Rainbow Friday, so it’s a jollier, calmer occasion? But maybe it’s big enough even with its depressing name. Still if you don’t fancy going 12 rounds with the neighbours just to get a new TV then lie back in your adult onesie, festival funzee maybe, and shop online.