You've probably heard the hype surrounding Black Friday – the frenzied shopping spree at the end of November that's long been an institution in the US. In recent years, this bargain-hunting phenomenon has crossed the pond and taken hold of the UK's most avid festive shoppers.
Here's everything you need to know about the American sales trend hitting UK stores:
A brief history of Black Friday
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, a national holiday in the US that occurs on the fourth Thursday of November. As far back as the 1960s it has been customary that once the Thanksgiving celebrations come to a close, savvy spenders take to the streets, queuing up outside stores offering massive discounts on a range of products.
These days, thousands of Americans head out in pursuit of the best bargains, resulting in the frenzied crowds flooding through the doors as seen on the news in recent years. For many in the US, Black Friday marks the start of the festive shopping season.
Why is it called Black Friday?
There are a number of myths surrounding the origin of the name 'Black Friday'. Many have proposed that it comes from the fact that many employers encounter high numbers of staff calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving.
Others have speculated that the name came as a result of Rebecca Black’s song ‘Friday’ going viral… We can confirm that this one is most definitely a myth!
Another idea is that the name derives from an accounting term: Black Friday was the day retailers go back ‘into the black’, relying on the festive season to make the majority of their annual profits. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that this is the case, especially as many retailers in the UK have remained profitable and in business before Black Friday sales were introduced.
Allegedly, the term was originally coined by Philadelphia police officers in the ‘60s. The New York Times reported that it was a bad day for law enforcement because of the surge in shopping and road congestion. The slang term ‘Black Friday’ describes the smog and traffic pollution in the city, caused by the high volume of seasonal shoppers.
In the past, many retailers have rallied to change the name to ‘Big Friday’ but unfortunately, the name hasn’t caught on.
Black Friday in the UK
It’s only in the last couple of years that UK shoppers have been a part of the Black Friday action. The UK inherited the bargain shopping event thanks to a couple of large retailers operating on both sides of the pond. In 2013, Black Friday sales proper were introduced in stores and on the UK versions of the sites as well as in the States.
Since then, many UK-based retailers have joined in on the action, slashing prices and making huge discounts on products in preparation for the Christmas shopping season.
In 2014, it was reported that UK shoppers spent as much as £810m in Black Friday purchases. However, retailers predict that Black Friday 2015 will be the UK’s biggest spending splurge yet, with the overall amount being estimated at £1bn!
A new sale-spree known as Cyber Monday takes place on the Monday after Black Friday, with shoppers in the digital age scouting for online bargains. The event originated in the states around 2005, when big ecommerce brands made the most of newly commonplace high speed internet.
The name ‘Cyber Monday’ was coined after it was observed that so many Americans were hitting the online marketplace in continuation of their Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend shopping.
Cyber Monday has since become a popular sales event here in the UK too, and is gradually becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. In 2013, statistics showed that, collectively, UK shoppers visited ecommerce sites a whopping 115 million times on Cyber Monday!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams
Even though there are many good deals to be had, it’s important to be on the lookout for bargains that seem too good to be true. Critics of Black Friday have suggested that the price of stock is, in some cases, inflated in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, making the discount seem better than it really is.
Cyber Monday has its own set of risks, targeting shoppers in search of a good deal. Cyber criminals can profit from the increased ecommerce activity, with scams and fraudulent activity rising significantly during this time.
Act with caution when shopping for deals, and stick with reputable brands that you’ve heard of. Always ensure that the site uses an SSL certificate when you’re handing over your credit card details (to do this, check that the site uses the HTTPS prefix (https://) rather than HTTP when making your payment, or it might simply say ‘secure payment’ at the checkout).
For the savvy shopper, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the perfect opportunities to pick up some great bargains. Of course, many retailers will offer other sales and promotions ahead of Christmas, so there’ll still be plenty of chances to cash in on a good deal.