Black Friday’s Record Online Sales

Many people believe we call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” because many stores become profitable on the huge shopping day and go “into the black.” The true origins of the term are a bit darker.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Why is it called “Black Friday”? Most people know Black Friday as the day after Thanksgiving, when stores open early and offer various sales. These stores are often “in the black” (profitable) that day.

But the true story of Black Friday is darker. The term “Black Friday” was first used on Sept. 24, 1869, when two investors, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, drove up the price of gold and caused a crash that day. The stock market dropped 20% and foreign trade stopped. Farmers suffered a 50% dip in wheat and corn harvest value.

In the 1950s, Philadelphia police used the “Black Friday” term to refer to the day between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy game. Huge crowds of shoppers and tourists went to the city that Friday, and cops had to work long hours to cover the crowds and traffic.

Merchants in the area tried to change the name to “Big Friday,” but the alternative name never caught on.

By the late 1980s, “Black Friday” had spread nationally with the more positive “red to black” backstory.

As a result, Macy’s opened on Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever, and other chain retailers have begun offering Black Friday deals earlier in the day Thursday, or utilizing tactics to get customers through the door, such as keeping deals hidden until consumers set foot in store, and only unveiled at a specific time, a strategy employed by Best Buy this year. This strategy aims to prevent other retailers from matching or beating their prices, in addition to luring customers in store. Other retailers put more of their deals on the web, so as to better compete with online retail giants.

However, despite their best efforts to keep up with e-commerce Goliath Amazon.com, online sales of brick-and-mortar companies Target and Wal-Mart still only account for about 2 percent of overall sales. Both Target and Wal-Mart are planning on investing more heavily in technology over building new locations, and this year, Target made nearly all of its Black Friday discounts available online as well as in-person, a change from previous years. Last year, online sales accounted for a full 40 percent of the $59 billion in sales amassed over the Black Friday weekend in 2012, and those numbers, paired with lethargic store traffic in the brick-and-mortar sphere mean that the pressure is on to lure customers into the shops. The pressures aren’t set to go away, either, with a recent Nielson survey estimating that just over 50 percent of shoppers are planning on buying something over the internet this year, a statistic up more than 10 percent from last year, compared to just 48 percent of consumers who said they were planning on visiting a “big box” store during this year’s biggest holiday shopping weekend.

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