The Black Friday hype is back but before we dive into the thrills of paying less for more, let’s take a look at the history of this massively successful retail gimmick.
When is Black Friday in 2023?
This year, Black Friday takes place worldwide on Friday, 24 November 2023, a day after Thanksgiving. The historic significance of this date plays a crucial role in unravelling the history behind the shopping holiday.
In modern times, however, ‘Black Friday’ is no longer exclusive to a single day. In fact, in South Africa, for example, retailers kick off the sale period at the start of November all the way through the festive season.
For instance, the likes of Mr Price and Takealot have been churning out discount campaigns since the start of the month, ramping up anticipation for the massive price cuts expected on Black Friday.
Where to get the best deals in South Africa
The 2023 version of Black Friday will be the second time South African shoppers flock to malls without the restrictions brought on by COVID, since 2019.
Building up to the day, retailers would have already made preparations to control large crowds expected at retail hotspots on Friday, an irony that rings loud once you are acquainted with the day’s history.
In South Africa, electronics, liquor and perishables are some of the most popular Black Friday items that fly off the shelves.
Therefore, stores like Game, Makro and supermarkets such as Pick n Pay and Shoprite are likely to experience the most traffic.
Earmarking hotspots with the best deals is, more than anything, subjective to one’s preferences. If electronics are what you are looking for, then Game and Makro may be the ideal place to visit.
However, while most shoppers will flock to take advantage of discounts on Black Friday, savvy customers will be patient enough to wait a few days for Cyber Monday, a spring-off discount day that takes place online.
Online marketplaces like Takealot, OneDayOnly and Superbalist are just a few places where coveted items will be on sale for cheap.
What is the history of Black Friday?
In 2023, Black Friday is recognised as a day shoppers take full advantage of discounts ahead of the festive season.
The retail day always occurs on the last Friday of November, a perfect placement for stores in the United States (US) since it comes a day after Thanksgiving.
Elsewhere in the world, Black Friday is conveniently situated around payday and a few days before the start of the festive season, where expenditure often skyrockets to abnormal heights.
But, what exactly is the history of Black Friday? Is it a coincidence that the one day on the calendar that rakes in billions for the retail industry just so happens to fall at the foot of the festive season?
Here is a little bit of history on Black Friday and how it became the retail phenomenon it is today.
The birth of the retail version of Black Friday is intrinsically linked to Thanksgiving, a holiday celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
However, the first occurrence of the term ‘Black Friday’ was nowhere near November, according to History.com. In fact, the term was first applied on 24 September 1869 in reference to the epic US gold market crash caused by two gluttonous financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk.
The ruthless Wall Street duo planned to corner the US gold market by using their links to President Grant’s administration to buy up a bulk of the nation’s commodity.
When President Grant learned of the plot, he ordered the US Treasury to release a large supply of gold in a bid to expose Gould and Fisk’s plans. The move resulted in gold plunging 18%, a drop that literally wiped out the market.
This historic event, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the Black Friday we’ve come to know. It also may not be linked to the myth about Southern plantation owners getting huge discounts from the slave marketplace a day after Thanksgiving in the 1800s.
In fact, the origins of the retail version of Black Friday can be traced to the city of Philadelphia’s public order police protocol in the 1950s.
According to History.com, law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania’s largest city were forced to work full shifts on the day after Thanksgiving in anticipation of the influx of large crowds of ‘urban’ shoppers and tourists who flooded the city ahead of the annual Army-Navy football fixture that took place on Saturday.
Negative connotations linked to racial discrimination have always lingered around ‘Black Friday’ and in some parts of its history, attempts were made to reinvent the retail day by including variations like ‘Big Friday’.
However, for reasons unknown, Black Friday stuck and what started out as a crowd control protocol in Philly has, more than five decades later, morphed into a global retail phenomenon that spurred spin-off shopping holidays like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday/Sunday.