How a Football Game Launched the Busiest Shopping Weekend of the Year

Today marks the beginning of the busiest shopping weekend of the year, starting with Black Friday, followed by Small Business Saturday and culminating with Cyber Monday. For many small business owners, it’s the most important sales and marketing opportunity they have all year. As for consumers, love it or hate it, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without all the hoopla.

So where did it all start and why?

The newest addition to the triad, American Express’ Small Business Saturday was started just two years ago as a means of encouraging consumers to patronize locally owned brick and mortar businesses that keep our communities and local economies strong. As for Cyber Monday, it too is a relatively recent event. It was started in 2005 by the National Retail Federation as a nationwide marketing platform for online retailers to compete for precious Black Friday shopping dollars.

And while these two days have certainly become notable over the last few years, neither one of them can hold a candle to what is perhaps the craziest phenomenon of them all…Black Friday.

Exhibit A? Let’s start with the tents set up outside virtually every Best Buy in the country last night. What’s that all about? How did we get here? What’s the history? Is Black Friday really the biggest shopping day of the year, or is it all about the hype?

For starters, the name “Black Friday” did not originate with the idea that it marks the day when retailers reap such huge profits that they are able to “get in the black” as opposed to being in the red. That’s actually mid-80’s public relations spin engineered by business owners who wanted to see a more positive spin on things than what was really at the heart of it all.

The truth is Black Friday’s moniker actually dates back to the one thing that Americans perhaps prize even more than their love of shopping… football.

Back in the 60’s, Black Friday started out as the day that happened to be sandwiched between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia—an event that drew immense crowds, all of which was good for local shop owners and businesses but was dreaded by anyone who had to navigate the city’s streets. That’s right, Black Friday began as nothing more than a day of irritation caused by too many people being out and about and causing a lot of snarling traffic.

And that’s changed today how exactly? Scrooge is in the building!

Actually, Black Friday has become one of our most exulted holiday traditions—one worthy of our creating temporary little tent cities and bonding late into the freezing cold night just to get a great deal. And while it doesn’t necessarily rank as the busiest shopping day in any given year when it comes to gross receipts, it almost certainly draws the most customer traffic.

Hype? You betcha! And we Americans love every minute of it.

So much so that today, despite the crowds and long lines or maybe even because of them, millions of us will strike out in search of the perfect gift, the best deal and a little holiday spirit, proving once again that sometimes the risk of a little irritation is just plain worth it.

 

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