Black Friday: where does the name come from?
The origins and the name
Everybody is talking about it! Tutti ne parlano da giorni ormai, ma vi siete mai chiesti perché si chiama così e qual è l’origine di questo giorno tanto atteso? Let’s take a closer look together!
Whereas Black Thursday, Monday and Tuesday were named for the dark economic outlook they brought with them, Black Friday is named such for positive reasons. Accountants (i contabili) use “black” to reflect profit in companies, and “red” for loss. That’s why going from a loss to a profit is referred to as being “out of the red” and “in the black.” L’espressione “in the black”, infatti, si traduce con “in attivo”, mentre “in the red” vuol dire “in rosso, in perdita”. That’s why we call it BLACK FRIDAY!
With the money that the day so consistently brought, retailers began referring to it as Black Friday due to its profitable nature. It was helping many companies end the year in the black, or at least closer to the black.
Black Friday History
E veniamo alla storia. L’espressione “Black Friday” comincia ad essere utilizzata negli anni ‘50… con una connotazione negativa. This was not used in a positive sense; instead it was how Philadelphia police referred to the massive crowds the day after Thanksgiving that would appear for shopping and tourism.
It was also, early on, used briefly to describe the day after Thanksgiving (il giorno del ringraziamento) in terms of employees calling in sick at work so they could have a four-day weekend.
The idea of the day after Thanksgiving being a massive day for holiday shopping has never been lost on retailers (commercianti). Through the early 1900s, retailers actually deeply resented that Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November, feeling as though the holiday sales started too late in the season to ultimately help their yearly profits get into the black. The Retail Dry Goods Association pleaded their case with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s about its effect on sales.
Roosevelt was receptive to their request, and in 1939 moved Thanksgiving back to the Thursday before the last one of November, in that year’s case the Nov. 23 instead of the Nov. 30. This new Thanksgiving tradition was met with some derision at first, with some snidely referring to it as “Franksgiving.” But in 1941, Congress and Roosevelt made it federal law that Thanksgiving Day would be the fourth Thursday in November.
By the 1960s, Philadelphia’s “Black Friday” name had made it into print, but brought a negative connotation due to the stock market association and the hostile crowds of consumers. Black Friday, meanwhile, stuck and began growing.
It was in the 1980s that retailers began using Black Friday in “get-in-the-black” terms, allowing themselves to lean into a phrase that had become established on a day already known as being great for sales.
The 1990s and 2000s are when Black Friday began to take shape the way we see it today, and the way local news still covers it: people dressed for the bitter cold waiting in long lines, fighting to get into the store and get their gifts in time.
Other more recent changes to Black Friday traditions, such as online sales or businesses opening doors Thursday night instead of early Friday, were meant to maximize profits. But these are also things that have likely helped quell impatient, rioting hordes of consumers who stayed up all night to get a new television.