No, I’m not talking about a stock market crash this Friday, although anything’s possible during this financial crisis. I’m predicting a crash in retail buying on the day after Thanksgiving. This recession will be deep.
I’m amazed that retailers have recently adopted the formidable term “Black Friday” to refer to the first and busiest shopping days of the holiday season.
Why use a term so depressing? For those of us in the financial world, Black Friday has a very negative connotation, referring to a stock market catastrophe. The first Black Friday occurred on September 24, 1869, when Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempted to corner the gold market. The attempt failed and the gold market collapses, causing the stock market to crash.
There have been other black days on Wall Street: Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929), Black Thursday (October 31, 1929), and more recently, Black Monday (October 19, 1987).
More recently, stock markets crashed around the world on Black Friday October 10th, 2008, just last month.
It turns out that the first time Black Friday was used by retailers was in the Seventies, when police and bus drivers in Philadelphia complained about the heavy traffic and over-crowded sidewalks downtown during the first shopping day of the Christmas holiday season. The shops and streets were crowded all day long.
An 1975 AP story reported: “Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. … "That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday,’" a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. ‘They think in terms of headaches it gives them.’”
However, merchants objected to the negative connotations of Black Friday. By the early 1980s, they began to circulate an alternative theory based on the accounting practice of being “in the black.” According to this theory, Black Friday is the day when retailers no longer have losses (“in the red”) and instead start making profits (“in the black”).
As one reporter summarized the new view: “If the day is the year’s biggest for retailers, why is it called Black Friday? Because it is a day retailers make profits — black ink, said Grace McFeeley of Cherry Hill Mall. ‘I think it came from the media,’ said William Timmons of Strawbridge & Clothier. ‘It’s the employees, we’re the ones who call it Black Friday," said Belle Stephens of Moorestown Mall. ‘We work extra hard. It’s a long hard day for the employees.’”
Still, Black Friday has a stigma attached to it, and is no term of endearment to most people.
Is there an alternative?
Merchants and accountants could start calling it “Good Friday,” but that term is already taken by millions of Christians. They might not appreciate the commercial theft of their holy day.
I have a better choice: Why not call it GREEN FRIDAY? I give three reasons:
First, green refers to the color of the dollar bill. Since the Civil War days, the US dollar has been called “The Greenback.”
Second, green is one of the most popular symbols of the Christmas holiday season.
Third, “green” is a positive term for a clean, sustainable environment.
Spread the word: Call it GREEN FRIDAY from now on!