How ‘black’ is Black Friday?

Wednesday March 18 2020

People shop at the King of Prussia Mall on Thanksgiving night ahead of Black Friday on November 28, 2019 in King of Prussia, United States. PHOTO | AFP


You may have heard about Black Friday, day on which shoppers around the world get to buy goods at discounted rates.

But just what is Black Friday and where did it originate from?

Black Friday is the Friday immediately after the Thanksgiving Day.

Traditionally, the thanksgiving ceremony is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the US.

On this day (Friday), workers would call in sick, so that they would get to enjoy a four-day weekend.

This way, they had the opportunity to shop various household goods, which most stores would then be offering at discounted prices.


Owing to the large number of shoppers on this day, Black Friday has been considered the most profitable day of the year for retailers.

The huge profits motivate them to allow higher discounts on a wider range of products.

Notably, people in the US were still shopping in large volumes on this day even before it came to be known as Black Friday.


Whereas it originated from the US, Black Friday is today celebrated in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, and Sweden and in other countries around the world.

The rest of the world is fast catching up, with the day now becoming popular with both retailers and shoppers.

In the US and now elsewhere in the world, Black Friday marks the beginning of the shopping period in readiness for the Christmas holiday.

Here in Kenya, a number of shopping outlets are offering different commodities at significant discounts.

Shoprite, Two Rivers, Tuskys, The Junction, CTM and Naivas have offered different products at discounted rates.

From foodstuff, home appliances, electronics, self-care products and gifts, it is Christmas come early for Kenyan shoppers.

For shoppers in countries that traditionally do not observe Black Friday, online retailers come in handy, as these too have major offers where buyers get to purchase their choice products at good deals.


Televisions display Black Friday ads in Walmart on Thanksgiving night on November 28, 2019 in King of Prussia, United States. PHOTO | AFP


Black Friday though is not all about the thrill of buying goods at attractive discounts.

Throughout history, this day has become infamous for crimes and violence, either targeted at shoppers or among shoppers themselves.

But why ‘‘Black’’ Friday?

According to The Balance, a web-based personal finance platform, the day was assigned the name Black Friday in the 1950s owing to the heavy traffic congestion that shoppers would cause on US roads.

The level of accidents would rise on this day, and sometimes there would be violence too.

Police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania coined the term to describe the confusion and mayhem that characterised this day in downtown shopping areas and on the roads.

Violence among shoppers has sometimes forced shops to close down and the police to intervene.

Crimes rates, including shoplifting and armed robberies, are also said to increase on this day.

Since 2010, Black Friday violence has resulted in 12 deaths and more than 110 serious injuries, the site says.

At 57 per cent, the majority of violent incidents have occurred at Walmart, an American multinational retail corporation.

In 2008, a stampede at a Walmart store in New York led to the death of a man as eager shoppers trooped in make purchases.

Black Friday may be the most recognisable day for shopping around the world, but more and more retailers are now offering deals to shoppers throughout the month of November and December.

In recent history, other theories have emerged regarding the Black Friday, with one poignant one linking the day to slave trade. According to proponents of this theory, Southern plantation owners in the US during the 1800s would buy slaves –black people from Africa –from slave traders at lower prices on the day after Thanksgiving Thursday.

Some quarters though argue that this theory has no historical basis. Even so, some people have still boycotted the day, citing the link.