Black Friday history lesson

By Conor Murphy


As Thanksgiving nears, so does Black Friday, a holiday beloved by bargain hunters and shopaholics. If asked, however, few would be able to say where this day originated from. As many are gearing up for next Friday, it is also important to know where to go and what to look for to get the most bang for your buck this holiday season. Aside from the tradition of going out to various shops and malls, Black Friday has moved online, with a plethora of e-retailers offering irresistible deals if only for one day.

The term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia in 1966 as a term used to describe the heavy traffic experienced on the day after Thanksgiving. The phrase saw broader use outside of Philadelphia in the mid ’70s. Soon, this alternative explanation for the term “in the black” was used when retailers turned a profit. While it is not an official holiday, many companies give their employees the day off, ensuring major traffic in the stores. It has come to be known as the busiest shopping day of the year, with record highs for various retailers across the country.

The day has also become synonymous with scenes of mob violence, as some sales are so enticing that they can drive crowds to brash physical acts. Various stores have experienced the hysteria that is induced on their most lucrative day of sales. Walmart is a prime example. In 2006, one of the retail giant’s stores in Columbus, Ohio saw a stampede pin their employees to stacks of merchandise in their quest for big ticket items. Most notorious was the Walmart stampede in 2008, which turned deadly when an employee was trampled to death. Last year at a Toys R Us in Madison, Wis., a woman was arrested for cutting the line and holding the people behind her at gunpoint when they objected.

The usual big box retailers such as Walmart and Target will be offering similar deals this year as the ones in the past. Much of these stores’ traffic will be generated by their big ticket electronic items listed at a fraction of the cost. Many will be making their way down to outlet malls, such as the Wrentham Outlets as well. An assortment of high and low-end retailers at these outdoor shopping malls will be offering deals that would seem incredible on any other day of the year. Last year, for instance, Saks Off 5th at the Wrentham outlets offered a Michael Kors fox-fur trim cape for $40.

If one can’t make it out of the house, however, there are also plenty of enticing deals to be found online as well. Popular online retailers such as eBay and Amazon will be offering up to 50-75 percent off big ticket items such as televisions, computers, and laptops. The e-retailers will also offer up to 60 percent off of all men’s and women’s shoes and bags. For the ultimate deals in apparel though, one ought to join the e-retailer Gilt Groupe, where luxury items are being offered for a fraction of the cost, as well as other affordable brands. One item sure to sell out quickly is a red Burberry parka from the brand’s top line. Originally listed at $1,295, the coat is being sold for $249, an 80 percent slashing. The site is free to join and offers a host of different deals.

As many are gearing up for the day after Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza, it is important to remember not to buy something just because of the sale price listed  because there will be other great deals throughout the season. At its best, the holiday is less about pandemonium and stampeding and more about spending time with friends and loved ones and experiencing the euphoric high of getting a great deal.

Conor Murphy can be reached at [email protected]