Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, a traditional shopping day marked by deep discounts and extreme behavior on the part of consumers. The myth is that this special day when the holiday shopping season begins is the day that retailers go into the black after having operated at a loss (that is, in the red) for the whole year.
That’s not where the name came from.
Actually, Black Friday described the crowds of rowdy tourists who hit Philadelphia on the Friday between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy games. With turkey on one side and football on the other, the Friday after Thanksgiving was a day for out-of-towners to come to the city to shop. The first use of the term in relation to shopping came from Philly in the 1950s, as police officers struggled to keep the traffic and tourists in check. Black Friday violence hit the headlines in the 21st century, as overeager shoppers caused injuries and even deaths in stores.
Another myth is that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. The last Saturday before Christmas has historically been the biggest shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday surpassed Black Friday a few years ago. And retailers this year are starting Black Friday early with online specials, while hopping that ecommerce Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday will create a weekend of conspicuous consumption.
What does it mean for manufacturers?
Manufacturers often give workers a long weekend. Black Friday affects manufacturing ahead of the day. Overtime and production pushes show up weeks and months before Thanksgiving. However, both underproduction and overproduction can be problematic. Canceled orders, rushed orders, sales lost when supplies run out, profits lost when excess products are discounted — these are the results of bad predictions.
Retailers share the responsibility for predictions with manufacturers but are increasingly insisting that manufacturers share the consequences. This is just one reason for the increasing demand for agility in manufacturing. Smaller runs and shorter supply chains are unavoidable in modern manufacturing. Machinery and factory configuration have had to respond to the new reality of manufacturing.
In 2021, Black Friday shopping was down from pre-pandemic levels by 28% — but 61% higher than in 2020. This year, inflation is affecting prices, so sales may increase if shoppers decide to keep their consumption at about the same level as they did during the pandemic or to go back to pre-pandemic shopping habits.
However, there is still concern that supply chain disruptions could affect shoppers. Expert have noticed that early “Black Friday” sales are appealing to consumers and some are shopping early for fear of lessened availability or to spread costs out over the season.
Time will tell.