Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday: A History Lesson

The end of Thanksgiving signals the beginning of a new season for many: the shopping season. With holidays like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday all falling in a four-day span, there’s no shortage of these shopping holidays where you can snag deals for both yourself and for potential gifts for the upcoming holiday season. Let’s learn a little bit more about these holidays and their unique histories.


Black Friday – The original shopping holiday’s history isn’t as cheery as some may think, despite its ties to the holiday season. Black Friday got its name from police officers in Philadelphia in the 1950s, who dubbed the influx of tourists from surrounding cities to attend the annual Army vs. Navy football game and take advantage of the major retailers’ deals in the big city with the somber name.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the name caught on across the country, however. By 1985, many retailers were getting in on the Black Friday action, but they used a little bit of marketing to change the dark perception of its name. If a company is “in the red,” it means they’re operating at a loss; if they’re “in the black,” they’re making a profit. With so many consumers turning to these retailers to take advantage of huge deals the day after Thanksgiving, many of them were able to get themselves “in the black,” and thus, the modern-day iteration of the name was born.


Small Business Saturday – This holiday falls the day after Black Friday, and it gives consumers the opportunity to highlight and support small businesses in their communities. It first debuted in 2010 as a concept by credit card company American Express as a way to help small businesses bounce back after the 2008 financial crisis. The United States Senate officially passed a resolution recognizing the holiday in 2011, and today there is nationwide participation in the holiday across all 50 states.


Cyber Monday – The final participant in this trio of retail holidays has a very interesting backstory, and it’s not as tied to financial gain as some may think. Rather, the name was given to the Monday after Thanksgiving as a way to explain an online shopping phenomenon starting the Monday after Turkey Day. Ellen Davis, senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives for the National Retail Federation, coined the term in 2005 in a press release describing the influx of online sales during many people’s first day back at work following Thanksgiving. According to the press release, 77 percent of online retailers had seen their sales increase substantially on “Cyber Monday” the previous year. This sharp growth in sales was attributed to parents doing online holiday shopping at the office, where the internet connection was faster and stronger, and there was a much smaller chance of their children catching them purchasing their gifts. Davis had considered the names Black Monday (after Black Friday), or Blue Monday (as online hyperlinks are blue) for the phenomenon, but landed on Cyber Monday instead, which is the name still used today.

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