Blue Arrow Blog - Black Friday

Where did Black Friday come from?

With only 10 weeks left until Christmas I knew that I wanted to write a little informative post about Black Friday for you, nothing too fancy, just a few facts and a nice little shout out to those of you who are job seeking at this festive time of year.

This nicely coincided with the fact that for the first time ever, I had decided to brave the madness and mayhem that is Black Friday for myself. I need a relatively high ticket item this year and do not want to pay full retail price so, loving to be productive, I thought that my research for this post could double-up as research for my very own experience. 

Upon reflection, approaching a research topic with a personal agenda may have been a mistake. Within minutes I had fallen off the historical research wagon and ended up taking a trip down the You Tube rabbit hole watching with morbid curiosity and growing horror, the amateur footage from the 2014 Black Friday sales.

Damn! Those people are just crazy! They actually trample over each other, all manners, human decency and ideas of loving thy neighbour are tossed out of the window and replaced with rabid, teeth-bearing, snarling insanity. 

I start to panic, I am such a wimp, if this is what it is going to be like, I am actually going to die. They are going to sense my weakness and turn on me as a pack, I won't stand a chance.

Before I knew it, I had turned into a doomsday prepper and was considering a full on synchronised plan of attack for my Black Friday expedition involving decoys, buffers, runners, catchers and payers.

I was quite enjoying my little imagination game, building a world and a sequence of events with myself as the heroine on a mission against the rest of the world when my fantasy was interrupted by a knock at the door sending my dog (an overly paranoid Collie) into a frenzy of alarm. 

With the daydream broken I realised that I had, in my imagination at least, become one of those crazy people on the videos, it had already brought out my survival instincts and I wasn't even there yet, it is only October for goodness sake. 

Now I was back on track with my research, trying to find out where this insane shopping day came from and who I could blame for inciting such deranged behaviour in the name of a bargain.

The story of course starts in the USA where since the late 19th century, the day after thanksgiving has been the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. In 1941, after some back and forth between retailers, shoppers and congress, which we do not need to go into here, Thanksgiving was officially set in law as the fourth Thursday in November. 

In the 1950's Thanksgiving had become difficult for employers with many staff calling in sick on the Friday so they could enjoy the 4-day weekend and shop ahead of the Christmas crowds. Finding it difficult to tell who was genuinely sick and who wasn't resulted in many firms just biting the bullet and making the day an official holiday for staff. 

This decision coupled with retailers seeing the number of shoppers steadily rise over a few years lead to a spike in exclusive bargain deals being advertised across major retailers. Shoppers soon caught on and the Thanksgiving sales became not only well-known but highly anticipated.

The name Black Friday (a term that had previously been coined for the 24th September 1869 stock market crash) was adopted universally after it was used in print in 1966 with a story quoting the Philadelphia police department who had used it to describe the traffic conditions and the crowds of people.

Over the years, Black Friday got bigger and better with stores battling to outdo each other and news footage showing the frenzied behaviour of shoppers, battling to get their hands on their Christmas Gifts at bargain prices, which started to catch the attention of the world.

Over here, on our side of the pond, it is Amazon who we have to thank for first bringing the sales to our door steps offering exclusive ‘Black Friday’ deals just like they were doing in the States. Not to be outdone, Asda who are owned by a US company, Walmart, quickly followed suit in 2013. 

By 2014 everyone was in on the Black Friday madness with sales being extended into stores across the UK and lasting throughout the whole post-Thanksgiving week.

That's when it all got a little out of hand. Police forces across Britain were stretched to breaking point as they were called to deal with crowd control, assaults, threatening behaviour and traffic issues due to stores failing to predict the popularity of the event. 

Come 2015 with the previous year’s footage still fresh in their minds, stores were a little sceptical about the whole institution with some retailers announcing that they would not take part at all, (ironically, including Asda) and others downplaying or modifying their approach to find a balance between supply, demand and decorum.

Since then, Black Friday has become known as the one day of the year that brings retailers their highest recorded sales, with each year beating the last. Autumn has in turn become the recruitment monsoon season, bringing a deluge of job prospects and a world of opportunities, as retail stores, banks, insurance companies, factories, couriers and call centres all turn their attention to getting enough staff and making sure that they are trained and ready to roll, in time for the shoppers to descend.

It is with relief that I write this, knowing that my Black Friday adventure is unlikely to descend into the mayhem I had first imagined.  Retailers have had some years now to get themselves organised and, through my work, I have seen first-hand the huge amounts of candidates being placed in work ready for Black Friday and the Christmas season. With a ton of job roles still available it would seem that stores are indeed going above and beyond to ensure 2014 does not repeat itself. 

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