This falls on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, on the fourth Friday in November each year.
Black Friday is a holiday in some states, but often people just take the time off anyway, with some employers giving staff a free day as part of their Thanksgiving leave. Many organizations are shut for the whole weekend, and some public transport schedules may change.
It heralds the start of the annual holiday shopping season, as the first day following the final big holiday before Christmas, and, for the last seven years, has been the busiest shopping day of the year. There is also an online version – Cyber Black Friday.
Virtually all retailers offer goods at discount prices on some items, especially things like toys.
Increasingly, stores are opening their doors to customers before dawn, often as early as 4am, with sale prices and offers to kick-start the season. In fact, in 2011, some retailers took the “early opening” concept to a new extreme by letting shoppers in at midnight for the first time.
In 2012, this was set to increase still further, with some retailers even announcing plans to break with tradition by opening up as early as 8pm or 10pm on Thanksgiving night, creating a “Black Thursday.”
Although historically sale offers have continued into the weekend, in recent years, this has started to drop off as retailers aim to give a greater sense of urgency for their bargains to be snapped up immediately.
Use of the term Black Friday started before the early 1960s, and was first used in Philadelphia. Originally, it described the heavy, disruptive traffic of pedestrians and vehicles which filled the city on the day after Thanksgiving, leaving dark markings on the road. Heavy traffic lasted into the weekend, so that there would also be a “Black Saturday.” (And, in fact, you can still expect congestion.)
In the mid-1970s, “Black Friday” began to be used more widely outside Philadelphia.
There have been past attempts to rename the Day “Big” Friday, but these were not successful.
An alternative explanation for the name is that it marks the point, or day, when retailers start to make a profit on their sales, or be “in the black.”
While Black Friday is traditionally a US occasion, Canadian retailers have created their own version of it to try and stop the increasingly common practise of Canadians crossing the border to take advantage of the lower prices. Canada (and the UK and some other countries) have Boxing Day sales on the day after Christmas which are similar shopping occasions.
In recent years, some of the big web-based retailers including Apple and Amazon, among others, have taken the idea of Black Friday outside North America thanks to the Internet. One study of 500 retailers found in 2011 that Black Friday sales were up nearly a quarter.
Of course, not everyone uses Black Friday to shop! Some people may also use their free day to visit family or friends or have a short vacation.