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Black Friday is a national retail phenomenon based on the spike in sales the day after Thanksgiving. Retailers often open their doors at very early hours, and sales abound. Many experts predict the sales for the entire Christmas season based on Black Friday figures. Some employers give their employees this day off so that they can participate in the huge sales and stock up for the coming Christmas season.

A Little Black Friday History

Since 2005, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year for retailers. The term first came into use in Philadelphia, around 1966, and was used as a derogatory term to describe the vehicle jams and heavy pedestrian traffic which routinely occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving, as shoppers hit the downtown stores. Later, around 1975, the term because commonly used throughout the nation for this day, and the meaning changed slightly to reflect the day when retailers were theoretically “in the black,” or realizing profit from their sales.

When do stores open on Black Friday?

Many stores, hoping to capitalize on the crowds of shoppers, offer huge discounts on merchandise at odd hours, such as 4:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Many shoppers will venture out as early as 2:00 a.m. on the morning of Black Friday, hoping to be the first in line for these sales. This is especially true in stores which carry the items which are dubbed as “most wanted,” often electronic toys or games. There have been incidents in which riots have broken out in front of or inside stores as shoppers battled for the limited numbers of these items, causing some people to denounce Black Friday as actually dangerous for shoppers. However, these incidents have been isolated and perhaps overplayed by the media; in general, Black Friday sales offer good values for the “early birds,” and many people are glad to get up early in order to save significantly on high-priced items.

Cyber Monday and Cyber Thanksgiving

Black Friday has also given rise to two more “holidays” in the past few years: “Cyber Thanksgiving” and “Cyber Monday.” The names of these two days arise from a noted trend that many who do not wish to brave the Black Friday crowds will shop online Thanksgiving Day or the Monday after the holiday (when many December paychecks or Christmas bonuses are deposited). Because of this trend, retailers with large web presences target these consumers, offering discounts on these days and advertising through email promotions.

What is the economic impact of Black Friday?

It is difficult to put a discrete dollar figure on how much money is made over Black Friday for retailers, as so many are now offering promotions earlier in the month of November, online, or after Black Friday is over. However, the figures available continue to show that it remains the largest shopping day in the country. If retail sales for the days including Thanksgiving and the weekend following are included, then many merchants are justified in considering this time of year their most productive.

Retailers rely on heavy sales preceding the Christmas season to stay afloat the rest of the year. While people shop all year long for birthday, anniversary, and graduation gifts, this spending is spread out and not predictable. By harnessing the massive spending of the weekend after Thanksgiving, retailers can be sure to have a ready-made shopping force at hand, and hope to take in enough to sustain them through the lean times the rest of the year.