How Black Friday Got Its Name

Posted on November 21, 2017 by Guest Writer

Black Friday traditionally occurs after Thanksgiving Thursday and was an ingenious way for shops to take advantage of the millions of Americans who were off from work. It now officially marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and now rivals the long-established Boxing Day sale.

So how did it make its way to the UK?

In 2010, Amazon decided to try its luck with a 24-hour flash sale for UK residents, which was relatively successful but remained somewhat under the radar. Three years later, Walmart-owned superstore Asda announced it would be offering enormous discounts on white goods and electrical items for one day only, on a first-come-first-served basis.

The result made the headlines, with iconic images of people fighting their way to checkouts carrying laptops and huge flatscreen TVs. Its astonishing success spurred other big retailers to follow suit and now everything from designer clothes to furniture and household goods can now be bought at discounted price.

In all its success however, the real history of how Black Friday got its name remains something of a mystery. There are many viable theories, and here are just a few:

  • In accounting terms, historically bookkeepers would use red ink to mark a loss and black ink to mark a profit – hence the phrase ‘in the red’. Black Friday in this context is thought to mark the day when retailers intend to make a notable profit.
  • Philadelphia police also lay claim to the term Black Friday, having supposedly coined it in the early 1960s when talking about the overcrowded sidewalks filled with shoppers and the headaches that came with it.