What Is Black Friday? Origins and History

What Is Black Friday? Origins and History

13th Nov 2018

Posted by Alice Ewens on 13th Nov 2018

As Black Friday draws closer and retailers prepare to slash prices, it begs the question: what is it and where does the name come from?

What Is Black Friday?

Black Friday occurs every year on the day after Thanksgiving in the US (the fourth Friday in November). It's marked by retailers offering large discounts on products, similar to the UK tradition of the 'Boxing Day Sales'. It's widely considered to be the busiest shopping period of the year. In the last decade, the UK has fully embraced this US tradition, expanding from discount sales focussed solely on that one Friday in November to whole weeks' or even months' worth of sales. But how did it come about?

black friday shopper with armful of bags gazes through shop window
image credit: Canva Pro

The Origins Of Black Friday

black and white archive photograph of Macy's flagship department store Herald's Square New York, 1907.
Macy's flagship store, Herald Square, New York, 1907
image credit: Irving Underhill via Wikipedia (public domain)

Originating from a US tradition, the earliest recorded reference to "Black Friday" comes from Philadelphia in 1961. It was used to describe the heavy traffic and busy streets the day after Thanksgiving. However, the idea of post-Thanksgiving sales existed as far back as the 1920s when the department store Macy's saw the business potential and advertised discounts alongside their annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

Other explanations for the specific phrase have also surfaced over the years. Retailers struggling throughout the year and making a loss were described as being "in the red". However, on that Friday after Thanksgiving, losses began to turn into profits, thus going from being "in the red" to "in the black".

In the UK, the term was often attributed to the final pay day (often a Friday) before Christmas, leading to crowds and boisterous behaviour in pubs. But, with the popularisation of the American sales-in-November concept, the UK has adopted that understanding of the phrase.

In The UK

phone screen showing text that reads 'Black Friday UK - get out your debit card and pour yourself a cuppa. Black Friday is in the UK and it's time to shop...' fade to blur at bottom.
image credit: Canva Pro

The UK was becoming familiar with the concept of Black Friday via the internet and popular media. But, it was Amazon, an American-founded company, that really introduced the idea to the UK mainstream in 2010. In 2011, supermarket chain Asda (owned by American retailer Walmart) offered in-store deals.

Since then, Black Friday has grown exponentially, largely driven by internet shopping and a global market. In fact, online shopping is such a huge part of it all that online-only Cyber Monday sales are now a thing. In 2023, UK retailers enjoyed huge sale figures, with customers spending an estimated £3 billion.

(source: Black Friday in the UK: Statistics for 2023)

A Sign Of The Times

With the impact of the pandemic and the Cost of Living Crisis affecting households all over the UK, many shoppers are looking for a deal and retailers are waiting to oblige! Black Friday in the UK isn't just about a single day anymore. It can span an entire week, or even the whole month of November! It looks like it's here to stay.

Black Friday At Furniturebox

Furniturebox have got you covered for Black Friday sales. Whether you're looking to spruce up your dining room in time for Christmas, get a new bedroom set up for overnight guests or revamp your living room with a new sofa, we've got a deal for you. Order before 8pm and get free next-day delivery on almost everything! (some exceptions apply - see our delivery page for further info.)

Where Next?

mobile phone on desk displaying furniturebox uk instagram page

We love seeing how our customers style their Furniturebox products, so be sure to follow us on Insta and tag us in your product pics! You can follow us on Pinterest too, where we've got heaps of ideas and inspiration.