BLACK FRIDAY: It didn’t always mean a retail holiday.

BLACK FRIDAY, the day after Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas shopping season in spite of the fact that my nearest CVS has had Christmas thingys since Halloween, and don’t give me any of that ‘Happy Holidays’ stuff,  as surely as the Detroit Lions vs. whoever has been played since 1959.

Target, Macy’s, Olympia Sports, Sephora, Sears, and a virtual plethora of retailers clamor to gain our ears, bandwidths and wallets.  Even “cultural” retailers such as the Guitar Center on Boylston St. here in Boston ply their off priced wares.  Here in the New England of the  21st. century malls such as Boston’s Copley Place and the Natick Mall advertise for all of the stores housed under their roofs.  

Security firms pay $25 an hour for armed guards at the Neiman Marcus at the Natick Mall!  Righteous bucks!

*54″ HDTV for only $19.99!*

and the like are the lingua franca of the marketing maelstrom.

Such was not always the case.

Indeed methinks that the emergence of Black Friday as a retail holiday dates back to…

…the passing of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation,” who lived through the Great Depression and WWII, which is to say my parents.

My mother, Doris was born in 1925, and my father Shelly was born in 1927. 

On occasion I would want some kind of mild extravagance, such as a 1st. baseman’s mitt.  My father would reply by bending my ear with stories of playing kick-the-can and being grateful that his father, who worked 3 jobs, was not among the legions of the unemployed in the Brooklyn of the 1930’s.

When I became a bartender Dad was all too willing to tell the tale of walking to the local tavern to buy a “bag of ice,” in the days before refrigerators became standard. 

What would Dad think of $1199.00 for a GE 20.3 cubic foot fridge with a bottom freezer?

http://www.Sears.com/Black-Friday-Sale

Mom hailed from New Kensington, PA a manufacturing city 19 miles NW of Pittsburgh.  Her father, Wiley O. Jack was a partner in a local Ford dealership.  During WWII very few cars were manufactured for retail sale as the auto makers of that era, Packard and Studebaker among them, retooled their assembly lines for the war effort.  My maternal grandfather made his living by servicing the cars he had already sold.

On occasion Mom would educate my brother Peter and I about the rationing of sugar, flour and eggs during the Great Depression.

I am on very safe grounds when I forward the thought that neither of my parents would ever think of ‘Black Friday’ as retail therapy.

BLACK FRIDAY prompts memories of my parents both of whom are no longer.  Investopedia tells us that the Black Friday that formed my parents hearts and minds occurred on October 25, 1929 when the stock market lost 11% of its net worth.

This pre-nuclear meltdown turned into a panic as the technology of our simplistic telephone system couldn’t keep up with panicked investors dumping their holdings.  Banks, being substantial institutional investors, lost their worth in the pre-FDIC era and throngs flocked to banks to withdraw their savings while there was still cash to meet their demands.

Black Friday had made a previous appearance in the financial lexicon in the 19th. century on September 24, 1869 when financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk sought to corner the gold supply.  When this scheme collapsed it was dubbed ‘Black Friday.’  It is certainly a viable concept that those with an education in the economic history of our country knew of the 1869 scandal when the stock market crash of 1929 occurred.

www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/…/grant-black-friday

The contemporary usage of black Friday’s earliest mention seems to have been in January of 1966 when the Philadelphia Police Dept(PPD) used the term to describe the crowds in downtown Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving.

http://www.sensationalcolor.com

In a more casual way the term Black Friday was bandied about by retailers to refer to the final quarter of the year which would pull the given retailer into the ‘black’ of profitability.  Research did not reveal any specific date or author for this phrase but it certainly has been in usage since the beginning of my business awareness,

The 21st. century brought the coinage of ‘Cyber Monday’ referring to the huge volume of online shopping that begins the week after Thanksgiving as those put off by the stampedes of shoppers at brick and mortar locations and with conflicting obligations click on to innumerable web sites to let their cursors do the shopping.

Cyber Monday was coined in 2005, just after Boston became a DSL city in 2003, by the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org to encourage and promote virtual shopping.

Black Friday didn’t become the catch phrase it is now until the mid-1990s when the World War II generation, which was born in the 1920s as my parents were, began to pass.

Only my aunt Thelma, born 1925, of my older relatives is still with this world of ours.

Contemporary usage of Black Friday no longer carries the baggage it did during my now long-ago youth.

Black Friday is now the brightest of Fridays.

 

 

 

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  1. November 25, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Reblogged this on Steve Gallanter's Blog.

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