The History of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming! Over several weeks, GD Commerce is going to take a deep dive into this annual sales bonanza, helping you to get your business ready to make the most of this invaluable opportunity to grow your business. This week, we're looking at the origins of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Each year, millions of us dust off our credit cards and dive into the single biggest sales event in the calendar – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This frenzied bargain celebration traditionally falls the day after US Thanksgiving in November. Cyber Monday is a more recent addition to the calendar, created by online retailers eager to grab a piece of the pie. How did these two events gain such traction in our consciousness? In this article, we’re going to examine the history of Black Friday, and how it became the single biggest shopping day of the year.

The Origins of Black Friday

Believe it or not, Black Friday used to mean something vastly different to sales and spending. In the 19th century, Wall Street traders Jim Fisk and Jay Gould bought a significant amount of US gold, thinking the price was set to soar and they’d reap massive profits. On Friday, September 24th, 1869, their scheme fell apart as the gold market crashed and their actions left Wall Street in rough shape. So widespread was the damage, it earned the name Black Friday. It wasn’t until nearly a century later it become entwined with shopping.

Post-Thanksgiving Shopping

The iconic department store Macy’s was the first retailer to advertise post-Thanksgiving sales in 1924. They saw thousands of potential shoppers flooding New York City for the annual Thanksgiving parade and spotted an opportunity to entice them through the doors with discounted goods. These sales continued apace through the next decade, stopping for a time on account of the Great Depression hitting.

Black Friday is Resurrected

With memories of Fisk and Gould’s perilous trades long receded, Black Friday was resurrected for an altogether different reason. Sometime in the 1950s, police officers in Philadelphia coined the term to describe large crowds of tourists and shoppers who descended on the city on the day after Thanksgiving. It became a day known in law enforcement for long shifts and no time off, earning the moniker of Black Friday.

The term slowly spread over the following years, with an advertisement in The American Philatelist magazine in 1966 the first to link it explicitly to shopping. By the late 1980s, retailers had fully co-opted the term, linking it to their post-Thanksgiving sales and their first opportunity of the year for finances to go from red into the black.

Nowadays, across the US and Canada, it’s estimated almost 200 million people will go shopping over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. But when did one day become a weekend-long event?

Origins of Cyber Monday

Online retailers were quick to jump on board the Black Friday craze, but it wasn’t until 2005 the term “Cyber Monday” was coined. The day marks the continuation of sales from Black Friday weekend, with exclusive internet-only deals tempting shoppers to double dip on bargains.

Ready to Help

Want to make sure your business is ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? GD Commerce is standing by to help. Contact Us and find out how we can lessen the load.


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