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Black Friday Term Origin, Retailers Feared It Would Scare Shoppers Away

The name Black Friday was originally coined by Philadelphia traffic policemen in 1960 who used it describe how thick the traffic in City Center was the day after Thanksgiving. Retailers tried to change the name because they thought it would scare shoppers away.

Shoppers and football fans

The Friday after Thanksgiving was the first major day of Christmas shopping and Santa Claus’ first day at the department stores. Beginning in the 1930’s several thousand people would also travel to Philadelphia on this day for the big Army-Navy football game at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium. This game was typically on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so a combination of shoppers and football fans coming into town gave traffic cops their hardest work day of the year.

Big Friday

In 1961, a year after the day was first titled Black Friday, many retailers and a Philadelphia public relations writer named Bonnie Taylor-Blake attempted to change the name to Big Friday. These retailers and Bonnie feared the term sounded negative and would scare shoppers away.

Black Friday Today

Black Friday has come a long way since its humble beginnings. In fact, in 2017 it was all about digital sales.

American shoppers spent a record $5 billion online in just 24 hours. An incredible sum of money, that was up 16.9% from Black Friday 2016.

And lets not forget the addition of Cyber Monday too. Online retail has clearly taken over, people just don’t want to deal with the traffic rush to the bricks and mortar stores anymore.

Which is kind of ironic since the name comes from that flow of traffic in the first place.

And before we sign off on this one, I’ll leave you with a little tip; if you want to take advantage of all those glorious online discounts on Black Friday but live outside of the U.S, sign up for a virtual address and let one of these services ship it out to you.


  • This Friday Was Black With Traffic. Joseph P. Barrett,¬†Overview: This article was written by a Philadelphia policemen who worked during the 1960’s when the term was created. He describes some of the events leading up to it’s creation and the retailer’s efforts to change the name.

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