Black Friday?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday?

Updated 11/28/2009 – 10:41 pm

Where exactly did this bad craziness, as the late Hunter S. Thompson would have called it, come from?

How bad can the craziness get? Last year a Valley Stream Wal-Mart employee was tram­pl­ed to death when a frenzied horde of 5:00 am early bird bargain hunters smashed through the store's doors.

And while I acknowledge the "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" media mentality loves to play such an event up, someone, Jdimytai Damour, did die!

But what I want to know is where this "Black Friday" thing originate?

When I was young, "Black Friday" was asso­ciated with the Stock Market Crash of 1929... even though it actually started on a Thursday.

The iconic '20s image of a flapper dancing the Charleston atop a speakeasy table was re­placed by bodies in three-piece suits plunging down onto Wall Street, then followed for a dec­ade by underfed children of the "Dust Bowl."

So how did the term get to be associated with the biggest retailing day of the year, and even have its own Website?

Is it "black" because the sales surge is sup­posed to get all the stores "out of the red?"

Well, if that's the case and it takes one huge day at the end of the eleventh month to get a retailer's bottom line out of the toilet, then it doesn't seem that Wal-Mart, Best Buy, et al, are in the right business!

But since it's all about money, rather than "Black Friday," I submit that it should be known as "Green Friday."

But what do I know... except that I'm not getting up at 3:00 am to stand outside a store somewhere so that I can get stomped like a rat in an elevator shaft.


...from the day after:

"The traditional shopping spree — dubbed Black Friday because it often was the day when a surge of shoppers helped stores break into 'the black,' or profitability, the full year — has marked the kickoff of holiday shopping for many consumers."

To the extent that Fox News may be considered authoritative....


1. Michael Jacobs said...

Having spent several years of my wasted youth in my family's retail business it is my understanding that the origins of "Black Friday" are exactly as you believe. Many retail establishments did not go into the "black" until the Christmas season and the Friday after Thanksgiving was, typically, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Today's mega-retailers are playing to the fear of the masses--the "must have" electronics or video games or dolls are in short supply. "If we don't line up for a 4AM opening our children's Christmas will be ruined"...goes the thinking. "Might as well give them coal in their stockings."

Casual observation over the last few years says to me that the shortages (per the dire warnings of the media) are manufactured. Miraculously, many of the highly desired items end up re-stocked closer to the holiday.

Today's retailers are vying for as many of the consumer's dollars as they can get... and thereby prevent their mall or Main Street neighbors from getting. "Blow your holiday budget early... and in my store." That's really the reason that there's a Duane Reed and a Starbucks every half-block in NYC. "Spend your money here before you spend it at the other guy." They'll compete for every retail dollar even if the commodities are not the same.

Some economists are predicting a generally lackluster Christmas season at retail. If they're right, the sales and promotions will be even better as we get closer to the Holiday. The high-demand items will generally be available... and you'll even be able to find a parking space at Tanger if you go at dinnertime.

You ol' cynic, you! But I generally concur, except the part about "wasted youth." One's youth is never wasted as long as one survives it!

2. EastEnd68 said...

Wikipedia says "Black Friday" began to refer to retailing in 1966. The original "Black Friday" was September 24, 1869 – a stock market crash, but not the 1929 one.

As loath as I am to accept Wikipedia, or Wiki-anything as authoritative, that particular entry seems reasonable. Thanks.

3. Matlynn Carville said...

CLEARLY you no longer have kids at home...

4. Susan said...

There is NOTHING on this planet that I (or anyone in my family) need enough to go through that media-created insanity!

Jeez, Louise, Susan, whatya got against the economy?

5. Barbara Ramsay said...

I must admit I was in the LL Bean outlet in Manchester NH at 6am enjoying 30% off my purchases. No lines and no insanity.

And from you, m'dear, I would expect nothing less!

6. Michael Jacobs said...

Matlynn -- I've got to hold with Dean's observation on "surviving" one's youth... so I guess it wasn't as "wasted" as I first implied. In fact it produced 3 kids... and now seven grandkids. No, they're not at home... but they're big factors in our Holiday thinking.

7. Mattie said...

The things I want at 4 AM aren't sold at Wal-Mart......

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