An interesting thing has happened to our American holiday season. It seems to have grown with the addition of two additional landmark dates: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
For the past few decades, the Holiday season has included Christmas and Hanukah, bookended with Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But now, more than ever, the “unofficial” Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping sprees have muscled their way into the list of established days for popular observation. In fact, more stores are increasingly kicking off Black Friday specials on Thursday – even before the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers made its way into the refrigerator.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, which traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season. There are several possibilities as to the origin of the name Black Friday. One popular explanation is that it started with the description of increased traffic in Philadelphia the day after Thanksgiving somewhere in the mid-1970s. Some employers also used the term because so many employees either took a vacation day after Thanksgiving or called in sick. Others give credit to the term Black Friday indicating the date at which many retailers begin to turn a profit for the year, with the red ink of operating losses being replaced by profits from holiday sales.
Although it is not an official holiday, Black Friday is helped by the fact that many adults take the Friday after Thanksgiving off from work, for an extended holiday. But Black Friday has turned from more than just increased traffic and consumers visiting retailers in massive droves. Today, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, and stores have stoked the flames.
Black Friday merchants typically offer special in-store discounts for customers to draw consumers to their stores on this day and open their doors earlier than usual up to that date. If a store typically opened at 10:00 each morning then stores can celebrate the unofficial opening of the holiday season by opening up at the crack of dawn. Still other stores begin their Black Friday by opening their doors just after midnight.
Do consumers really start shopping at midnight? You bet – especially this past Thanksgiving. Popular retailers can sometimes see long lines outside their doors just waiting to snap up the Black Friday only specials.
And Cyber Monday? This term describes the online purchasing activity that takes place on the Monday following Black Friday. The first use of the term may have originated with Shop.org, an online division of the National Retail Association, which used the term in 2005 to describe the newly discovered online shopping opportunities – and the spike in online shopping.
Web savvy consumers visit retail shops on Black Friday and the following weekend, and then scour the internet for a better deal.
Why Monday? Because many workers went back to jobs on Monday and accessed the internet at work. Retail sales lose little steam following the biggest shopping day of the year due to the convenience of online shopping. And as consumers begin to get more comfortable shopping online, ecommerce has continued to grow. In fact, according to an article at InternetRetailer.com, online shoppers will spend nearly $55 billion dollars online this 2012 holiday season, up nearly 17 percent from the year before.
You won’t find Black Friday and Cyber Monday circled on most calendars. The post office and banks don’t shut down in reverence. But retailers now anxiously await these big dates each and every year and hope for higher sales and big profits.