There used to be a time when Black Friday was the day to get all your Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop. You could gather up all the store circulars – these days conveniently published weeks, even months, in advance and compiled tidily online – hit the stores, and (if you could brave the maddening crowds) knock out your entire list in a few mind-numbing hours.
That, however, was so 2007.
These days, we’re all more cost-conscious than we were pre-recession, which means consumers tend to make fewer impulse purchases, more carefully plotting out and comparing their options before making the final purchase. And because of this, or, perhaps, in spite of it, what used to be one day of frenzied Christmas shopping – Black Friday – has morphed into a trio of “unofficial” shopping holidays spread out over four days.
This is the one with which we’re all familiar. Its name actually comes from far more dubious beginnings – an 1864 stock market crash that resulted in a run on the banks. The date of that crisis – September 24, 1864 – just happened to fall on a Friday, and, hence, Black Friday was born. Nearly a century later, a Philadelphia newspaper used the term to describe the annual rush to the stores on the morning after Thanksgiving. The name stuck, mainly because of what the word “black” came to represent. Today, we associate the “black” in Black Friday with the idea that this date represents the first time all year that retailers run a profit instead of a deficit. They’re out of the “red” and into the “black.”
Small Business Saturday
While the history of the term Black Friday goes back almost 150 years, Small Business Saturday – the second “shopping holiday” in this rather unholy trio – is in its infancy. Coined by American Express in 2010, the idea behind Small Business Saturday (we’ll call it SBS for short) was to help promote small businesses across the country, which at the time were being overwhelmed – and overrun – by the discounts and sheer size of the big box retailers. AmEx works with these small businesses to provide promotional materials for the single-day event, always the Saturday after Thanksgiving and also runs
television ads throughout the year highlighting it and its impact.
SBS got a boost in its second year, when President Obama endorsed it, saying it served to “keep our local economies strong and help maintain an American economy that can compete and win in the 21st century,” according to The Huffington Post.
SBS does more than help local businesses, though. There’s also an incentive for shoppers who may otherwise be tempted to head to mass retailers to do their Christmas shopping. American Express cardholders who spend at least $25 in a single transaction at a qualifying small business on SBS can receive a $25 account credit if they sign up in advance at ShopSmall.com (this year’s enrollment window is from Nov. 18th through the 24th, although space is limited).
If Black Friday is your great-grandfather and Small Business Saturday is your brand new baby girl, think of Cyber Monday as your tech-loving, Gen Y cousin who’s always on the cutting edge of all things cool. Like Black Friday, the shopping patterns now described under the catchall term actually appeared long before anybody coined Cyber Monday. It made its first appearance in pop culture the Monday after Thanksgiving 2005 – the day of the calendar we now call Cyber Monday. The term was used to define the proliferation of shoppers bucking the in-store crowds and turning to the Internet to find after-
Thanksgiving deals instead. Why Monday? Because after the long holiday weekend, this was the first chance shoppers had to sit down at their work desks and do a little online shopping.
Although Black Friday still dominates when it comes to single-day shopping dollars spent – an estimated $11.4 billion on Black Friday 2011 – Cyber Monday is picking up steam every year. Last year, online retailers recorded $1.25 billion in sales on Cyber Monday. That was not only a Cyber Monday record (up 22 percent from the previous year), but it was also an all-time high for single-day online shopping sales.
Reader, do you plan to take part in any of these shopping days this year? Which ones?