By now Black Friday will have come and gone and you will either have snapped up some fantastic bargains or ignored the whole palaver. Where has this new phenomena come from and, more particularly, how did it get its name?

It is a tale of marketing spin at its most ingenious and it has its origins, unsurprisingly, in America. There it is the day after Thanksgiving when retailers have huge sales on selected items.

The story most often told is that it relates to the black ink that bookkeepers use to show a company is making a profit, as opposed to red ink, hence the expressions “in the black” and “in the red”. It was thought that it showed the results of the Thanksgiving sales and that thereafter retailers were in profit for the rest of the year. This story is a myth, however, perpetrated by retailers to hide the more negative connotations of the real story.

Black Friday originates from 1960s Philadelphia. Locals used the term to refer to the day following Thanksgiving as they dreaded it. The city hosted an annual Army vs Navy football game on the Saturday and tourists, shoppers and spectators flooded the city the day before. Traffic chaos and congestion was the result, requiring the police to work extra-long shifts.

The power of marketing has been used to put a positive spin on this negative event.

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