Explaining the Black Friday phenomenon + some great bargains

THE RUSH: Black Friday seeks stores packed-out with bargain hunters
THE RUSH: Black Friday seeks stores packed-out with bargain hunters
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Black Friday is, like many things, a part of American culture that we on this side of the Pond have taken on as our own.

Black Friday is, like many things, a part of American culture that we on this side of the Pond have taken on as our own.

A warehouse stacked in advance of Black Friday

A warehouse stacked in advance of Black Friday

For years now Black Friday – which falls after Thanksgiving, on the fourth Friday of November – has been one of the busiest, if not the busiest, shopping day of the year in the USA, when Americans head for the malls to do some serious pre-Christmas shopping.

• Click here for local Black Friday deals from castle stays to personal training sessions

Although it’s not an official public holiday, many companies give employees the day off to head for the stores – unless, of course, they’re employees serving behind the counter. For them it’s one of the most hectic days of their working year.

The origins of the day are unclear.

Many people believe that parades featuring Santa Claus held on Thanksgiving first heralded the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Department stores like Macy’s in New York and others frequently sponsored the holiday parades throughout the early part of the 20th century. Sponsoring Christmas parades gave stores an opportunity to begin advertising holiday sales.

Over time, it became an unwritten rule that Christmas advertising didn’t start until after the parades, and therefore after Thanksgiving.

Thus once the floodgates opened on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, traders made the most of it and now people regard the day after Thanksgiving as the official start of the holiday shopping season.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Thanksgiving used to fall traditionally on the last Thursday of November.

But in 1939, the last Thursday in November fell on the 30th for the second time in six years, which left only 24 days shopping until Christmas.

Retailers felt this was too short a period and a powerful retail organisation warned US President Franklin Roosevelt that if the holiday season wouldn’t begin until after Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on the traditional final Thursday in November, retail sales would go down the pan.

Roosevelt saw an easy solution to this problem – he actually moved Thanksgiving up by a week from its traditional day (the last Thursday of November)to the next-to-last Thursday in November, ensuring an extra an extra week’s shopping.

There is some disagreement why the term Black Friday has been used.

Some people claim that it’s because it marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, where retailers’ records moved from the early winter lull, where accounts were in the red, to black, to indicate a profit.

Others say that it originates from news reports from 1966, which revealed that police officers in Philadelphia first referred to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” because of the increased traffic jams and large amounts of pedestrian traffic in the city’s shopping district.

For police, bus drivers, cab drivers, and others who tried to control and navigate the shopping hordes, the day was bleak – and, therefore, “black.”

Whatever its origins, canny retailers began to realise that they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, and Black Friday became the day to shop for early Christmas bargains

Some retailers put their items up for sale on the morning of Thanksgiving, or email online specials to consumers days or weeks before the actual event.

The most shopped for items are electronics and popular toys, as these may be the most drastically discounted.

However, prices are slashed on everything from home furnishings to clothes.

Like our January sales, many stores put on a number of “loss leaders” – items with prices so low they are sold at a loss – to entice shoppers into their store.

Some stores open at midnight on Thanksgiving night, while others open between 2am and 5am. Black Friday camping has become popular as shoppers line up for “doorbusters” – goods at a staggeringly low price – up to a day in advance of stores opening.

With the advent of the internet, stores have begun to release their advertising flyers online as a way to further create excitement and urgency well in advance of Black Friday.

These pre-releases of doorbuster and sale information has also allowed enthusiastic consumers to determine the best deals and carefully plan shopping routes before the big day arrives with military precision.

Over the last few years traders over here in the UK have begun to adopt Black Friday, and traders here on Wearside are slashing prices to start the festive ball – or should that be bauble – rolling here.

• Click here for local Black Friday deals from castle stays to personal training sessions