What makes Black Friday so crazy

When it comes to the holiday season there are many things that we all look forward to, like the working lady heading out for a relaxing stay at the beach or a party animal experiencing new clubs in exotic locations. However, before that starts, we need to get equipped with the proper gear and tech.

For me, that’s usually a good set of games and maybe even a new console, fortunately there are more things than games out there and one particular sale happens each year that allows us to get everything we need. That being Black Friday sales, the one time of the year you can get whatever you need, wherever you aren’t being actively trampled, for next to nothing prices.

So, while you stand in line this year, waiting for the family of six to push through all 13 trolleys of cheese and butter, you may find yourself wondering just how all this madness started. At least, I wanted to know, since GiftWrap is running several specials this month for Black November.

We’ll be looking at why Black Friday is special, to the how it became special and when it started to spread from the US to everywhere else.

We’ll be looking at why Black Friday is special, to the how it became special and when it started to spread from the US to everywhere else.

Mall Crawl for Mall Deals
Crawling through malls is one of the most important parts of the shopping experience, maybe even just rushing into a supermarket

Black Friday, not so negative connotations.

Every shop, in every mall, on every continent of the world has a constant sale. Whether it is “buy one get one free”, “25% off” sales or “going out of business season” sales, they’re all constantly happening, and we all love shopping when we see something we like. These sales help shops, whether it’s just bringing more customers in or if it’s just getting rid of unwanted stock.

One thing has always been clear though, some of these sales aren’t really sales. As a matter of fact, some chancier shops may increase prices for items that are on sale, just to try and get rid of slow-moving stock. After all, we’re hard wired to go straight to the red tag areas.

But, for the keen-eyed observer, or the needlessly frugal, anything with a red tag leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If everything is always on sale, then there are no sales ever. I swear I’m not writing this as complicated as possible on purpose.

The truly frugal and budgeted shopper knows that there are set times when you should go to sales. These are the times of the year when something isn’t merely marked off by 25%, no these sales can see stock being sold for only 10% of their actual price.

Normally these are secret sales (yes, they do exist) or defective stock that are only sold to the right people. TV’s that are the same as ones on the shopping floor will be sold in the back for reduced pricing, sometimes for simply being opened or having damaged boxes.

This is where Black Friday comes into play, it marks the first of many things and the endings of some other odd things.

Shopping the Sales
Black Friday is all about shopping the sales and swiping the cards

Financial things that end

You may not know this, but most retail shops run in debt for a large part of the year. They make just enough money to pay their employees and keep their shelves stocked. Black Friday marks the end of this.  When the red ink in their ledgers, that shows a loss in money, are changed to black. Hence, Black Friday.

This is believed to be one of the origins of the name Black Friday, despite it being used for several other events, all taking place on the day after Thanksgiving, in the US. The term Black Friday was first used by emergency services to describe the day after Thanksgiving, which was a day where people were on the roads or in malls at larger quantities than normal. This influx of people caused accidents that required more attention from these services, hence the name ‘Black Friday’.

As time passed and more people used the term, it was shops that had the name change implemented. Wanting to move away from negative connections with the term, businesses started using the ledgers being updated explanation, a move served them well.

Shops could now safely promote Black Friday sales without any negative connotations connected to it, thus the shopping tradition that took America by storm got a name.

Shops could now safely promote Black Friday sales without any negative connotations connected to it, thus the shopping tradition that took America by storm got a name.

Sunshine or Snow
Sunshine or snow there is nothing that is stopping you from enjoying Black Friday specials

Great, so what makes it special?

There are few days in the year when shops agree on anything, even Christmas holidays are a hotly debated event that few decisions have been made on. However, shops in the US have all agreed on one thing, as far back as the 1960’s; the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season.

For us this means that people with stuffed turkey bellies are walking through malls looking for the best deals before going on holiday. To be clear, in the US Thanksgiving takes place on the fourth Thursday of November, with Black Friday happening on the day directly after that.

For the average US person this is a long weekend, where Thursday is a public holiday and Friday is a little extra that most employers give to make it a four-day weekend. So, we can imagine in the early days there were shoppers walking through malls having fun with family, fond memories of the previous day looking for the best gifts to give.

We can also imagine shops not having any specials and customers just walking around with no deals in sight. This is where the real fun starts, shops want people to spend more money and they want them to do it much faster than before. This is where the true sales start.

Shops needed people to buy products on Black Friday, by the weekend everyone would be back to normal, but this one Friday every November had to be special. Shops needed to change out their stock and add the Christmas items that they had prepared. So, they did the only logical thing, massively reduced prices on virtually everything in the store. (To the point where if it wasn’t nailed down, you could buy it for next to nothing.)

And people noticed, oh boy did people notice.

Lines for Lines
Black Friday usually involves waiting in many lines, just so you can stand in another line

Wait, so what makes it special now?

The Black Fridays of the 20th century were vastly different from the ones taking place now, most shops only had to deal with the locals. There was no easy way to spread news of a sale several hundred kilometres away, nor was there much of a point. Shops carried everything you needed and few if no speciality shops took part in the tradition.

At the start it was only large retailers, like Walmart, that had sales. People would wait in lines, but very rarely would they cause stampedes to get in. These specials were advertised on TV and Radio and few people knew what was on sale until they walked into the store.

Then we entered the 90’s and early 00’s, the age of the internet and advertisements aimed over larger areas. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered is the reason for the sudden popularity of Black Friday. People did get injured in earlier years, but it was because of car accidents or other incidents.

In the early 00’s the first big Black Friday events took place; these were the days when competitions between shops became drastic. Before the internet, and the full rise of online shopping, physical mega stores wanted as many people as they could get. We’re talking about electronics going for 60% to 70% less, people standing in line from the previous day and stampedes to get to the best items.

This was made worse when the internet did start influencing what happens on Black Friday. Shops knew that they had to entice people in earlier and earlier, hoping for ways to get everyone through the door as fast as possible. Which led to shops opening earlier and earlier, some opened at 05:00 in the morning, then 04:00 in the morning and then there were some that opened at midnight.

Usually, this would be the end; however, shops kept taking it further and started their Black Friday promotions from the Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day. Normally, this would mean little to nothing as retail workers are used to working on holidays. However, across the US this caused riots, fights and protests, as people were extremely unhappy to work from the Thursday to Friday just because of Black Friday.

This caused a schism to develop in the US in the late 00’s, people were getting tired of the deals and the general rush of corporate greed. Luckily, Black Friday quickly spread to other countries, places that did not have Thanksgiving. This helped the general uproar against companies subside, as vacation days were reinstated, and the sales became tradition.

Equipment is important
If you’re camping or traveling the equipment you are buying is always a cheaper deal on Black Friday

What other places thought

In the early days of the internet you might remember receiving a mail from Steve in accounting, with a funny caption and a short video of Americans rushing through a shopping mall. These would be extremely entertaining and remind us of why people falling over is always funny.

But then it spread across the world, first to Canada then it crossed the oceans. England and Europe had supermarkets start the madness, somewhere between 2007 and the 10’s. The Black Fridays outside of the US are significantly different and they are the ones we are used to seeing in South Africa.

We experience a clearance of old winter stock and outdated technology than we see new products going on sale. For some reason South Africans always seem to head straight towards the grocery section, I can remember one headline saying that a fight over the last bottle of milk took place in a Checkers one year.

South African shops embraced Black Friday with a lot of fanfare; then we made it our own. Since we don’t have Thanksgiving, the Thursday before Black Friday is just a normal day, this meant that shops quickly learned how to make specials last for longer. November became not just another month in the cycle of shopping, it became Black November.

This means that shops have month long specials that build up to the big day, others have sporadic sales on specific days and online retailers saw the chance to take full advantage of the shopping fever. This is where Cyber Monday started, if you’ve ever been on TakeAlot then you will know what this means.

Of course, the US also has Cyber Monday, but we didn’t just stop there we did Cyber Week which is a week of deals.

Cyber Monday
The fun thing about Black Friday is that it has spread to more than just one day

So, what then makes it special?

While the confirmed definition of Black Friday as well as when it starts has drifted quite a far way, there is still one thing that holds true. The sales, oh, the glorious, wonderful, magnificent and short-lived sales.

Black Friday is the day where you can go and find true sales at almost any shop that partakes in it. I’ve seen 50-inch LED TVs go for 20% of their normal price, some shops just give away some items just to get more foot traffic. In the US there are deals for the first X-number of shoppers, that usually includes deals on everything in the trolleys.

These deals are starting to happen in South Africa, and other parts of the world, they are also moving their older stock in ways that US shops may not be doing. In many US shops the specials are created with partnerships between suppliers and the shops themselves.

That’s why the Xbox One and Playstation 4 were heavily discounted only a few months after they were launched. This is something that almost never happens in other countries, local stores are creative when it comes to specials, moving new stock at almost wholesale prices or just moving all the older stock to make space for the Christmas stock.

Yes, I am referring to everything here as stock, because it’s literally everything that is being moved. Stores like Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay have discounts that apply to the whole store while tech stores like Incredible Connection and Dion Wired have a select few items that’re available at an extremely low price.

Which is why if you want specials you should plan ahead for Black Friday, or you could look at what shops are doing across the country in the month of November.

Shopping on the Day
Black Friday is the that most people will be ready and open for customers

This is the catch.

If you’ve ever saved up for an item you know the pain of it suddenly going on sale and missing it. That wonderful thing you’ve been waiting for, only you’re a bit late and everyone else has one except you. This is one of the most important experiences of Black Friday, showing up to the store, unwilling to fight tooth and nail against others, just to see that indeed the Vac Blaster 6000 instant tuna shredder is more popular that you thought.

This happens in the weeks preceding Black Friday quite often, shops will have scattered specials on the stock they have. This is to keep interest and have people visit the shop a lot more often than normal, which is why we started calling it Black November, a whole month of sales instead of just one day.

GiftWrap is a bit more presumptuous with this, we’re always running specials and sending them out. For Black November we’ve started running a campaign that will promote what we have and how we’re changing the promotional industry, only slightly, for the month of November.

First, we’re running our specials daily until the end of the month. Our lanyards, canvass bags, tote bags, maybe even some of the tech stuff, like car chargers and headphones, are all on special. If you’re wondering how a promotional items company has excess stock, don’t, because we don’t have old stock we move out.

Like US shops that sell new items at a discounted price, all the corporate gifts, promotional items, corporate clothing and other branded items are all new items with discounted prices. This means that when you do see our ads, on branded golf shirts or t-shirts, you should know that it’s new items at significantly reduced prices.

We’re also aiming at the frugal shoppers, with earphones that can be over 30% less than anyone else. Therefore, we have several ads traveling across the internet that will remind you and keep track of the specials that we do have.

If you’re looking for a special or if you just want to save money before the holiday season starts, you should know of everything that is being sold around you. At the very least, now you know why Black November is special and where you should go for the best deals throughout November.

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