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The History and Importance of Black Friday

The Friday after Thanksgiving has become one of the most important days for businesses.

You know the drill. After a day of feasting and football, you head out for the late-night or early-morning opening of your favorite store, its amazing deals advertised on the windows, fellow shoppers gathering at the doors. It’s Black Friday, the best time of the year to save a bundle. But how did the tradition get started? Why is it called Black Friday? And how important is it to businesses?

Read on for some answers.

The History and Importance of Black Friday

Some Form of Black Friday Has Been Around for Well Over 100 Years

Back in the late 1800s, many stores sponsored Thanksgiving parades.* At the end of the parades, the stores opened their doors and the holiday shopping season commenced. While it’s impossible to pin down the exact year this tradition began, by the beginning of the 20th century, it was common for retailers to start their holiday-season sales as soon as Thanksgiving ended.

Black Friday Really Got Going in the 1940s

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. But when a five-Thursday November rolled around in 1939, business leaders asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the holiday back a week so the holiday shopping season could start earlier. Roosevelt agreed and, after several years of confusion, Americans settled in to celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, ensuring retailers can always start their holiday sales before December.

The Black Friday Name Comes from Philadelphia

You may have heard that the “black” in Black Friday refers to the day’s power to push retailers “into the black,” a reference to the black ink used on handwritten ledgers to denote profit. This story, however, was concocted by retailers to make the name sound more favorable. The real origin of the Black Friday moniker comes from Philadelphia, where the Army-Navy football game is played on the Saturday following Thanksgiving every year. In the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, the game brought in hordes of people, most of whom arrived on Friday. This caused a major headache for the police, who had to deal with all kinds of mischief and mayhem. It was such a pain, they began referring to the day as Black Friday. Retailers in Philadelphia, who typically saw a sales spike from all the people in town, started calling the day Black Friday as well. In the 1980s, the name went national, shedding its less-than-glamorous origins and adopting the myth of black ink.

Black Friday Is a Major Day for Retail

Even if the “going into the black” story is made up, the day is still quite important for retailers. It’s regularly one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and it sets the tone for the holiday season, which accounts for 20% of yearly sales in the retail industry.§ Here are some other Black Friday economic statistics, courtesy of the website The Balance:**

100 million: The number of people who shopped in a physical store on Black Friday 2016
$7.9 billion: The amount spent online on Black Friday 2016
$655.8 billion: The total spent over the 2016 holiday season
$935.58: The amount spent per shopper over the 2016 holiday season
500,000: The estimated number of workers hired for the 2017 holiday season

You Can Learn More About Improving Sales With a Business Administration Degree

If you want to increase sales for your business, consider earning a BS in Business Administration (BSBA). A business administration degree can help you gain the leadership skills and business acumen you need to succeed in business.

Part business degree and part management degree, a bachelor of business administration is ideal if you own your own business or are looking to advance in your current job. Before applying to a traditional campus-based bachelor in business administration degree program, consider online business degree programs. With online education, you can continue working full time and on your current work schedule. That’s because online universities—some of which offer a bachelor of science in business administration—allow you to complete your coursework from home, at whatever time of day works best for you.

There are plenty of ways to increase sales and help your business get into the black. Through a BSBA degree program and the convenience of online learning, you can develop leadership qualities and gain business skills that can help your business reach its sales goals.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a BS in Business Administration degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

*E. Trex, “A Brief History of Black Friday,” Mental Floss, on the internet at

†T. Brown, “How Did Thanksgiving End Up on the Fourth Thursday?” NPR, on the internet at

‡S. Pruitt, “What’s the Real History of Black Friday?” History Channel, on the internet at

§National Retail Federation, “Holiday Trends and Expectations,” on the internet as a PDF at

**K. Amadeo, “What Is Black Friday? Sales and Trends,” The Balance, on the internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,