How Black Friday Has Changed Over the Years

November 21st 2016

Almie Rose

Black Friday, the day in which Americans gorge on retail discounts the day after gorging on turkey, has become something of a bizarre unofficial American holiday.

And it's not a new phenomenon. "'Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis' is a disease second only to the bubonic plague in its effects," proclaimed M.J. Murphy's "Tips to Good Human Relations for Factory Executivesin 1951.

So exactly how much has Black Friday changed over the years? 

Brief Black Friday Origins

Black Friday, contrary to rumor that picked up steam on Instagram, is not named after slavery, Snopes reports.

Black Friday ad

The original explanation for the term "Black Friday" has been lost to time, but the most popular theory seems to be that "Black Friday" refers to stores making a profit, or "going in the black" (as opposed to "being in the red," the times during which they struggle to make a profit), according to The History Channel.

What Black Friday Used to Look Like

Traditionally, people would stand in long lines hours before stores opened at their exclusive Black Friday early hour (usually 6 a.m.). But in the 2000s, hoping to increase sales, stores upped their game by opening even earlier, starting with 5 a.m. — and then eventually midnight, according to InfoPlease.

Kmart Black Friday shoppers 2012

Some blamed retailers like Wal-Mart and others for tempting greedy shoppers, linking the frenzy of Black Friday shopping to the series of unfortunate and entirely preventable accidents and even deaths that began to happen on Black Fridays in the 2000s and ushered in a wave of satirical Black Friday memes and comics.

Black Friday comic

Black Friday Death Count, which as of writing, reports seven deaths and 28 injuries as the result of the shopping day, noted the first incidents occurring in 2006. The first Black Friday-related death happened in 2008, when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by an "out of control mob," according to the New York Daily News.

What Black Friday Looks Like Now

One word: Amazon. The massive online retailer changed the Black Friday game.

Amazon boxes

Recent trends have also been showing a preference by shoppers for "Cyber Monday" over Black Friday, with Lifehacker writer Jason Chen pointing out that if you calculate how much your time is worth, waiting in line for hours for a Black Friday sale simply isn't worth it when you can get the same (or similar) great deals online without having to leave your house.

Macy's Black Friday line

Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday), coined in 2005, has shown to be just as popular a day for sales and deals as Black Friday, if not more so. In 2015, Cyber Monday had its biggest year ever, reports USA Today, with an impressive $3 billion in sales.

And in 2016, with home-shopping technology as easy as ever, the two shopping days have blurred into one extended 4-day shopping weekend —if not longer. 

For example, Amazon is "insisting on doing Black Friday and Cyber Monday on its own terms," reports Brett Williams of Mashable, noting that the online retailer already started posted their Black Friday sales on Nov. 1.

Holiday shopping should be even easier this year, unless you're unprepared.