Love it or hate it, skip it or embrace it, Black Friday is a part of American culture as a day when stores across the nation offer deals and expect to be overwhelmed with consumers in return. Here is some surprising trivia you can brush up on while you wait (and wait and wait) on line.
LI Black Friday traffic: not so bad?
If you thought Black Friday traffic on Long Island was always a nightmare, you might be surprised to know that Black Friday 2015 saw less traffic volume on average compared to other Fridays throughout that year.
Per data from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), sensors (as part of what's known as the Continuous Count Program) located around Region 10 (that's Nassau and Suffolk counties) showed consistently that there were less cars on LI roads during Black Friday 2015 when compared to average Fridays, days and weekdays--even when looking specifically at Fridays during the holiday season (Nov-Dec).
Example: the Meadowbrook Parkway between Hempstead Turnpike and Stewart Avenue--a zone only 1.5 miles from the Roosevelt Field mall--saw 111,949 vehicles pass through in both directions on Black Friday 2015, yet when compared to volume on average Fridays 2015 (125,026 vehicles), the average daily traffic (115,548) and average Fridays in November and December 2015 (116,366) it seems Black Friday wasn't all that tough for traveling to and from Roosevelt Field in 2015.
All the NYSDOT Continuous Count Program sensors found that in 2015, more vehicles were recorded on the roads of Long Island on average Fridays versus Black Friday.
Philly PD said it first
Commonly believed that the term "Black Friday" was coined to note a time when retailers can hope to turn a profit for the year -- or go "into the black" -- several sources indicate that the day after Thanksgiving received its dark sobriquet in the 1960s from the Philadelphia Police Department.
The City of Brotherly Love is often the host city of the Army-Navy college football game, which in the 1960s was held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, drawing heavy out-of-town crowds. The combination of tourists and the usual shopping windup that has followed Thanksgiving for decades resulted in an increase in crime, misconduct and traffic, both human and vehicular -- apparently inspiring the Philly PD of the time to anticipate Black Fridays as guaranteed headaches.
Other Black Fridays
The term "Black Friday" has also been used in the USA to mark a number of non-shopping, negative occurrences that took place, as one would imagine, on Fridays.
The collapse of the U.S. gold market on Friday, Sept. 24, 1869, was the most devastating; gold speculators used conspiracy, corruption and manipulation in an attempt to corner the U.S. gold market. The government caught on and tried to block the effort, which resulted in a severe drop in stock prices and a disruption in the national economy that took months to improve.
Golfers taking part in past PGA Championships were known to call the Friday that typically involved the playing of two 18-hole rounds--and was known to frequently result in the elimination of star players--Black Friday.
Back on Friday, May 19, 1780, New Englanders reported that a dark haze in the morning intensified into skies as dark as night by noon. At the time, some living through that "Black Friday" thought the End Times had arrived; modern scientists peg heavy wildfires as the cause.
(Pictured: E. Yang, of Republic of Korea, hits a drive on the 16th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin.)
The day after Thanksgiving was referred to as "Black Friday" once before the Philadelphia police dubbed it so, and not because of shopping. As it turns out, an article that ran in the publication Factory Management and Maintenance in 1951 also found the word "black" fitting for the Friday following Thanksgiving--but only because the writer reported it was a day when workers tended to call in sick.
Author M.J. Murphy wrote, " 'Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis' is a disease second only to the bubonic plague in its effects. At least that's the feeling of those who have to get production out, when the 'Black Friday' comes along." Murphy suggested that companies should simply make the day a paid holiday, rather than suffer mass absenteeism
(Pictured: Workers are photographed on a flywheel assembly line at the Ford Motor Company's Highland Park, Michigan, plant in 1913.)
Although the term "Black Friday" was yet to be devised in 1939, the POTUS at the time recognized the financial power of the day after Thanksgiving.
Once traditionally--but not legally--celebrated on the last Thursday of November, Thanksgiving could land on either the fourth or fifth Thursday to take place, depending on the calendar. The Great Depression was still happening in 1939, a year when Thanksgiving would fall on that fifth Thursday, and a great number of retailers panicked that the late date would shorten the shopping season, leading the Retail Dry Goods Association to ask the government to move Turkey Day back to the fourth Thursday.
The President of the United States at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, agreed and made the move--a decision that was reviled by some--so much so that several states ignored the decree and continued to hold Thanksgiving on the final Thursday as had been the norm since 1863. (The then-mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Thomas Taggart famously dubbed the shifted Thanksgiving held on the fourth Thursday as "Franksgiving.")
The disparity continued for two more years until FDR signed legislation that officially designated fourth Thursday in November as the official day of Thanksgiving.
The parade is a push
American retailers have recognized the weekend following Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday shopping rush since the 1800s, but it was the large New York City department stores of the early 1900s that cemented the concept with processions and special events. The iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, first held in 1924, started as part of that push to inspire shopping.
LI Black Friday tragedy
A tragedy at the Walmart store in Valley Stream made national news in 2008, when a rush of Black Friday customers fatally trampled an employee. Crowds had arrived hours before the opening time of 5 a.m., and once the doors opened, a stampede of shoppers pushed through, knocking several people to the ground--one of which was a seasonal employee, Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, Queens--who was crushed in the chaos. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has since settled with Nassau County prosecutors, and agreed to overhaul security tactics at its retail stores. (Pictured: Shoppers running into a Walmart in New Jersey shortly after 5 a.m. on a Black Friday.)
Black Friday USA
Although (as of this writing) the 2016 Black Friday data is yet to be compiled, information gathered by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) confirms that Black Friday is popular with consumers in the U.S. Per ICSC statistics, 50 percent of American adults (18 years of age and older) reported making a purchase on Black Friday 2015, up slightly from the 49 percent who did the same in 2014.
(Pictured: A customer stands by a shopping cart as she waits in line at the check out at a Best Buy store ahead of Black Friday in San Francisco, California, on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.)
Who’s using Black Friday (and not)
ICSC stats also state that the youngest adult Americans lead the nation in shopping on Black Friday, with 73 percent of Americans ages 18-24 doing so in 2015, followed by adults ages 35-44, who purchased at 65 percent.
The least active American age range of Black Friday shoppers? Adults ages 65 and older shopped at a mere 23 percent rate.
(Pictured: Consumers carry shopping bags at the Newport Mall during Black Friday Sales on Nov. 27, 2015, in Jersey City, New Jersey.)
Rich vs. poor
Wealth had little effect on Black Friday shoppers in 2015, as the ICSC statistics indicate that the least affluent Americans (household income less than $35,000) shopped at 50 percent, while the most prosperous (household income $100,000 and greater) shopped at a 47 percent rate.
(Pictured: Black Friday crowds spill into the aisles, flooding the Macy's store inside Roosevelt Field mall in East Garden City on Nov. 25, 2011.)
Black Friday selfie buying
International Council of Shopping Centers statistics further indicate that the many deals offered on or around Black Friday encourage American adults to splurge on themselves, as the ICSC reports that in 2015, 25 to 37 percent were encouraged by promotions on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday to buy a "Product You Had Not Previously Thought of Buying for Yourself/Your Household (Not as a Holiday Gift)."
(Pictured: Black Friday shoppers look for deals at Kate Spade at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead on Nov. 26, 2010.)