Now that the annual Black Friday 5am morning rush has passed and so many of us find ourselves cheek to jowl as we jockey for the fastest check out line or the least-awful mall parking spot, it may be time to ask just why it’s called “Black Friday.’
Starting my advertising career in the 80’s, I always heard it was an accounting term. On this, the busiest shopping day of the year, most retailers moved from operating at a yearly loss (January through November) to earn their yearly profits during the Holiday season. They would finally hit the black ink, thus “Black Friday.” As definitions go, it was neat, tidy and just obscure enough.
Unfortunately, it’s also half-true. Much like the Stephenie Mayer phenomenon convinced today’s teens that she invented the goth vampire genre, this Black Friday explanation obscures the original source of the name: the Philadelphia Police Department. On the best of days, traffic clogs that city’s narrow, colonial-era streets but when you add all the cars coming in for Holiday shopping at the flagship John Wanamaker’s and the annual Army-Navy game at the old JFK Stadium, the streets become absolutely paralyzed. And so, by 1965, Philadelphia’s finest had dubbed it Black Friday.
Now you know. Happy shopping.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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