Why we have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Once upon a time, a group of overzealous crowds converged onto Philadelphia every year for shopping and sightseeing in the days following Thanksgiving. More than 70 years later, the phenomenon known as Black Friday draws crowds all over the U.S.

Every year around Thanksgiving stores begin advertising Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Local governments and organizations encourage people to shop local for Small Business Saturday. For as long as some people can remember these special shopping days have existed. But there was a time when they didn’t and a time when Black Friday was the only post Thanksgiving shopping day with an official name.

Black Friday

Large crowds, similar to those seen on Black Friday in recent years, is how Black Friday came to be known in modern times. It also paved the way for Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

In advance of an Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the 1950s, there would be a massive turnout of shoppers and tourists to the city. Local law enforcement referred to that Friday as “Black Friday,” according to History.com and Business Insider.

Philadelphia police were not allowed to have the Friday after Thanksgiving off and worked extended hours in order to deal with the large crowds which caused congestion and traffic issues. Additionally, shoplifters would take advantage of the large crowds, keeping police on their toes. In 1961, Philadelphia retailers attempted to change the name to “Big Friday” but Black Friday stuck.

“The term didn’t go national until the late 1980s, but the definition changed,” said Reader’s Digest. “While retailers generally suffered financial losses most of the year, the surge of holiday shoppers marked the first day of real profit. In traditional accounting practices, losses were recorded in red ink, and profits in black ink. And so, the day after Thanksgiving, when companies go ‘into the black’ and make a profit, became Black Friday.”

Black Friday sales in 2018 totaled $6.02 billion, little more than $3 billion less than Cyber Monday, according to Forbes. Unfortunately, Black Friday has also become synonymous with violence. In 2018 New York ranked number 18 on Reviews.org’s list of states with the highest chance of Black Friday violence.

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday was the last shopping holiday to come into existence but it puts billions of dollars into the hands of small businesses every year. Pre-pandemic in 2019, the National Federation of Independent Business estimates $19.6 billion was spent on Small Business Saturday at small restaurants and stores.

In 2010 American Express created Small Business Saturday to encourage shoppers to visit local independent businesses to do their holiday shopping during the recession, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The next year Small Business Saturday was officially recognized by the U.S. Senate.

Financial recovery after 2020 for businesses has been an ongoing and painful process but more so for small businesses, many reliant on foot traffic in their stores and restaurants. Local organizations and governments are hoping Small Business Saturday will draw people to popular downtown areas like Pittsfield, Saratoga, and Troy.

“More than ever, it’s crucial to shop locAfter watching online sales spoke the Monday al this holiday season,” said Downtown Troy Business Improvement District Executive Director, Geoff Brault. “Shopping local means no supply chain issues and no worries if your gift will arrive on time through the mail. It also means you’ll be gifting more than a quality item, but a story and an experience that your friends and family will cherish for years to come.”

Cyber Monday

After watching online sales spike the Monday after Thanksgiving for some years, National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Senior Vice President of Research and Strategic Initiatives, Ellen Davis, came up with the term in 2005, according to Reader’s Digest. They said the NRF suspected it was because people were placing online orders from work away from the watchful eyes of their family and friends. They also suspected it was to take advantage of faster internet speeds on company computers.

The year Cyber Monday was in essence born, it made $484 million dollars, according to ComScore. Since its inception, Cyber Monday has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2019, Forbes said Cyber Monday brought in $9.4 billion, making it more profitable that year than Black Friday.

Although touted as the “Biggest Online Shopping Day of the Year” by retailers, it wasn’t until nine years after its birth that Cyber Monday really started to live up to the hoopla, Readers’s Digest said. “In time, companies that track online spending began to argue that it was primarily a marketing gimmick and wouldn’t break any records, as digital promotions rarely fell on the same day,” they said.

They said 2014 was the year Cyber Monday took off. “That year Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in the country, raking in over $2 billion in sales. And each year since the bar has been raised.”

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