After the leftovers are packed away in the fridge and the football games have finished for the night, in many homes across the United States, the Thanksgiving weekend fun is just beginning. Braving the cold and the crowds, Americans leave the comfort of their homes for the cold city sidewalks to wait for the best deals of the year. But why? What is the appeal? To help explain the Black Friday phenomenon, we have gathered the facts starting with its inception.

When did it start?

There are many myths regarding the origin of the term “Black Friday”, but it most likely earned its name in Philadelphia in the 1950s. Black Friday referred to the chaos that ensued the day after Thanksgiving when large crowds of suburban shoppers and tourists would flood into the city to prepare for the annual football game between the Army and Navy college teams on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. They would stock up on clothes, home goods and other giftable items that could be found in the shops throughout downtown Philadelphia. The hordes of shoppers would clog the city streets, causing a strain on law enforcement and retailers. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the chaos to steal merchandise. By the 1960’s, the locals had begun to call the day “Black Friday.” Today, retailers have capitalized on the shopping craze by having Black Friday sales to draw crowds and kick off the holiday shopping season.

Why did Black Friday become so popular?

As retailers began to realize that they could capitalize on the start of the holiday shopping season with discounted prices, Black Friday became a popular shopping day. Retailers slash prices on everything from electronics, to toys to home goods and apparel. Today, many retailers open early Friday morning or even Thursday evening to entice shoppers to get a jump start on their holiday shopping. 

Why wait in line?

Normally, we avoid lines. We dread the grocery store checkout, the post office, the waiting room. But on Black Friday, many people choose to wait in line, sometimes for hours at a time. But why? According to J. Jeffrey Inman, president of the Society for Consumer Psychology, says that, for many families, Black Friday is an extension of the holiday fun, a cherished tradition.

“It’s not a chore,” said Mr. Inman, who is also a professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh. “And there’s this layer of competition to it, with people edging forward, getting in their ready stance because there are only so many of those big screen TVs inside the door.”

About 174 million people participated in Black Friday shopping last year, so whether you’re waiting in line to spend time with your loved ones or because you enjoy the rush of the competition, you’re in good company.

Today, Black Friday deals are spread throughout the weeks leading up to and following Thanksgiving. In an increasingly online market, consumers can shop when and where they please without waiting in line. For that reason, the Monday after Thanksgiving has been coined “Cyber Monday” and boasts hundreds of online deals for shoppers who prefer to stay warm at home.

We’ve helped numerous clients create targeted, creative and profitable Black Friday sales – brick and mortar as well as online.