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What is Black Friday?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Black Friday is the discount shopping day that follows American Thanksgiving, which is always on a Thursday. Retailers promote this day as the time to start shopping for Christmas. Black Friday is often advertised with "Christmas Sales" as well as "Thanksgiving Sales."

The word "black" in Black Friday refers to the term "in the black" meaning making a profit. Today, it is not a crucial source of profit to retailers, but is important in driving traffic into stores. Many retailers mail special circulars about the day to consumers, announcing deeply discounted items in the hopes that consumers will visit their store on Black Friday.

Marketing studies have shown that many Black Friday shoppers will buy other merchandise from stores in which they planned to visit to purchase advertised items. The increased volume of shoppers buying non-discounted items makes the day profitable for retailers even though they do not make much profit on deeply discounted merchandise.

While some people head out on a Black Friday to just "window shop", others insist they will not shop on this day at all, citing overcrowded parking lots and wall-to-wall shoppers as reasons to forgo saving money at sales. Yet many others not only pre-plan which items they will buy from which stores, they are willing to brave long lines to get bargains on items they want. Each year, Black Friday has so many interested shoppers participating that it remains a retailing tradition in the United States.

Electronics and toys are popular Christmas gifts and are often the most sought-after bargains. Retailers often slash prices on the latest electronics and toys by as much as half or even one third of their suggested retail price. Retailers know consumers will respond to such enormous opportunities to save on Christmas shopping costs. Jewelry is another popular item that shoppers look for discounts on, although gigantic discounts on jewelry items are not usually as common as drastically slashed prices on toys and electronics are.

As supplies on deeply discounted goods are often limited by retailers, "doorbuster" sales are common on a Black Friday. The people who arrive early to line up closest to the store's front doors are the only ones sure to be able to purchase the advertised bargains if the store runs out. To help compensate for this, most stores try to have as many of each item as possible and/or mention the number available on their circular. Some stores also give out incentive prizes to those in line such as gift cards good for free merchandise in the store to the first hundred or more shoppers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon356930 — On Nov 29, 2013

Black Friday is a day where people get killed because others trample over them, where people think they find their true love, when people buy their turkeys a day late, and the only time of the year where your father goes out shopping and likes it. The "coolest" place to be on Black Friday is at Dollar Tree or the 99Cent Store because a pair of glasses can cost $0.57.

By anon130126 — On Nov 27, 2010

I totally agree with zoid

By anon129917 — On Nov 26, 2010

It sounds like a marketing gimmick: the gift of modern consumerism and commercialism. I rather prefer to buy when I need it, not when it is on sale.

By Brwnman8888 — On Nov 25, 2010

I feel left out being Spanish and all. I think we should call it Brown Friday. Let's vote on it.

By anon129864 — On Nov 25, 2010

Black Friday is for all idiot shoppers, black or white race who think they are getting a bargain. Well there is Black Power, Black Ice, so why not Black Friday. What's next?

By anon129714 — On Nov 24, 2010

Ever notice everyone is offended by anything and everything. We have become the biggest bunch of sissies. You know, I am just offended that you are offended about being offended. Just stop being offended.

By anon128391 — On Nov 19, 2010

Good Lord, not another racial argument. I am *multi*-racial, so let me educate you all. Most of this will make sense if you ever run your own business, or become a bookkeeper or CPA. Black Friday is an *accounting term,* not a slave-day old-over.

Colored ink is expensive, and back in the old days you were lucky to even have it at all. But to keep costs low, all business and homeowners mostly printed pages in black ink. You only use color once in a while because it is expensive.

Business books are run in credit and debit, period. You print all receipts in black if they are a profit. This should be normal or you would have gone out of business already. But the receipts are printed in red if you lost money on items.

When you report to your regional manager, you want to be in the black (ink), *not* in the red (ink).

It has *nothing* to do with black and white race. I am both so I love both. (Can't we all get along, or must I hate both sides of myself? Haha!) However it is all about the green money.

Get a business education if this is all new and weird to you, or remain the uninformed consumer. I prefer you remain the latter so I can forever be in the black!

By anon126322 — On Nov 12, 2010

I personally don't see why they call it black friday. I do think they should name it something different but I guess that will never change.

I do not ever shop on that day because of the traffic and way too many people in stores and some of them just being plain rude and nasty, trying to get in line in front of people and some often try to beat you to the punch by grabbing something before you can. That is truly a bad day to be shopping.

By anon57148 — On Dec 20, 2009

In wales (uk) the last friday before christmas is known as black friday. On that day bars and nightclubs are open for 24 hours to accommodate all the christmas office parties.

In swansea where i live, which is a large party town, black friday heralds the start of a huge christmas celebration in the city center, and thousands upon thousands of office workers fill every bar and nightclub up to the rafters for about 24 hours.

Unfortunately on this day the police and the paramedics usually have to deal with serious disorder and injuries due to the excess drinking, but "black friday" in wales is a huge event for most of the population.

By anon54465 — On Nov 30, 2009

Black Friday is a day were people get ripped off because businesses say that people are saving money but in reality businesses are the ones making money.

By anon54249 — On Nov 28, 2009

You have got to be kidding me! The term Black Friday has been used for many decades to refer to the 1st day of the year that retail stores go "in the black" or show positive cash flow. It has nothing to do with race. The word "black" has many meanings. Stop making everything a racial issue.

By anon54155 — On Nov 27, 2009

It's called "Black Friday" because it gives retailers a chance to get out of the red from the previous months.

Some people are just looking for another excuse to cry racism!

By anon54121 — On Nov 27, 2009

it's not racist and you're the only one i've heard complain about it.

Look, we have a black president who celebrates it and doesn't complain. so why should you?

This whole "it's racist" stuff is for the birds. That's just an excuse to make white folks look bad on a day when we can all shop for less. Get over it, go shopping, and stop living in the past.

Not everything is about the black community. This just happens to be about shopping and the name is not offensive.

By anon54078 — On Nov 26, 2009

Grow up. Who cares if it's called black friday? If you're not going to shop because it sounds racist then that's your loss, enjoy your opportunity.

By anon54058 — On Nov 26, 2009

Before this year, I'd never heard the term "Black Friday" (except Good Friday occasionally being called Black Friday). Now I'm hearing it and reading it everywhere, and for some reason this makes me mad. Maybe because suddenly it's trendy. Unfortunately, I'm sure I'll be hearing it every year now; I may as well get used to it.

By anon53985 — On Nov 25, 2009

anon53755 - Why don't you all grow up and just enjoy a bargain.

By anon53897 — On Nov 25, 2009

Black Friday, White Friday, who really cares? Why don't we call it Green Friday because it's about *money* and then go buy a car? No! we should call it *Jesus's* Friday and go there. Thanks *Black Friday retailers!*

By anon53755 — On Nov 24, 2009

i refuse to shop on black friday because of how racist it sounds. lets call it white friday dammnit!

By zoid — On Nov 16, 2009

I know people who refuse to shop on Black Friday not because of the crowds, necessarily, but to protest the growing commercialization of the holiday season. With holiday decorations going up in stores in September and October, it's not hard to see why some people feel this way.

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