‘Black Friday’ falls on Friday (November 25), a day after the US holiday of Thanksgiving. The day – usually associated with massive shopping sprees witnessed across the US driven by attractive discounts and deals – is not marked in many countries globally, but its idea has gradually spread.
In India too, brands like Amazon, Flipkart and PVR are among the many others that have started offering discounts on the day.
Why is Black Friday called so, and what has its impact been? Take a look.
What is Black Friday?
Similar to how the months of October and November see discounts in India, given some major festivals (such as Dussehra and Diwali) take place around this time, festival shopping begins around the time of Black Friday in the US. Shoppers are attracted to bulk buys and discounts and they begin their Christmas shopping during this period.
Why is it called Black Friday?
There are different stories behind this. One view says it was to denote that companies were no longer “in the red” and instead doing well. But, according to Britannia, a more accurate version comes from the early 1960s, when police officers in the city of Philadelphia began using the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that resulted when large numbers of suburban tourists came into the city to begin their holiday shopping.
The huge crowds created a headache for the police, who worked longer shifts as they dealt with traffic jams, accidents, shoplifting, and other issues, as shoppers thronged.
In the 1980s, Black Friday was described as the day stores began to turn a profit for the year and as the biggest shopping day in the United States, although by some figures that may be the period right before Christmas.
“In more recent years, Black Friday has been followed by other shopping holidays, including Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to visit local retailers, and Cyber Monday, which promotes shopping online. Giving Tuesday has also emerged to spur charitable donations,” according to the encyclopedia.
Black Friday’s global spread and criticism
With the success of Black Friday for companies, the idea has taken hold globally. Although not in November, many countries have their own versions of such sales. Companies like Amazon, which have operations on a large scale now, are also able to hold sales elsewhere with their expansion.
But the global shift towards a more consumerist way of life has its critics. In recent years, many see Black Friday as a symbol of over-consumption that makes people buy products that are not needed, adding to waste generation and the increase in carbon footprint, simply because items are sold cheaper on one particular day.
Some years ago, activists in France staged Black Friday protests against Amazon, blaming the service for exacerbating climate change through its rapid deliveries when it introduced the concept of Black Friday sales to European markets.
The “Stop Black Friday” amendment in France was proposed around this time as part of an anti-waste Bill, which was put forward by France’s former environment minister Delphine Batho. The amendment proposed the integration of “Black Friday” advertising as part of “aggressive commercial practices” punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of €300,000.
The period also sees videos of chaos and even violence surfacing on social media, as shoppers resort to physical fights to secure special items on sale.