Black Friday in the United States has become somewhat of a religious movement bordering on hysteria, with people camping outside of department stores for several days—subsequently disregarding Thanksgiving, the family holiday which summoned Black Friday in the first place—with people literally getting mauled and trampled to death just over some discounted products.
But where did this carousel of consumerism come from? It dates back to the 1920s, when department stores like Macy’s created giant parades to alert Americans that the shopping season had now arrived. In the 1930s during the great depression, President Roosevelt even moved thanksgiving a week earlier just to allow for more Christmas shopping, hoping this would increase retail sales during the final year of the depression. But, as history repeatedly tries to tell us, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.
Fast forward to today, this day of spending has evolved into an entirely different beast. When asked about Black Friday, comedian Bill Burr said, “Why can’t you just admit you can’t afford it at a regular price and go back the next day like a gentleman? There is nothing in Walmart worth getting trampled over.” Could you imagine getting shot at a Toys ‘R Us over some toys?
Just absolutely bananas.
On the other side of the Atlantic, here in the UK (which does not celebrate Thanksgiving, aside from the occasional pub), Black Friday is a much more recent instalment in one of the many traditions adopted from the US. Luckily, it appears to be treated with a bit more civility, even despite the current turmoil being felt across the country.
According to the Office for National statistics, 94% of adults said their cost of living had increased compared to last year, and 76% claimed it had increased over the past month alone, up from 62% last year.
So, how does ‘the man’ cushion this blow to our wallets? A 50% off a lifetime supply of toothbrushes!
Big brands have begun saluting the new environmentally conscious flag that has been raised across news platforms and social media and, gratefully, many of them are doing their best to help those in need whilst capitalising on this (arguably unscrupulous) cash-grab. In fact, many have even adopted the new moniker: Green Friday.
One example being IKEA, which, after the success of last year’s green initiative, offers customers to sell back their furniture in return for 50% off new purchases.
Another is the Shop & Give initiative, which is a free way to raise money for charity while shopping online, an example being any of the ‘Give as You Live’ websites, which have raised over £21 million for worthy causes.
Adding to the raising defiance, this Friday alone, up to 85% of independent retailers have shut down their online websites, which clearly shows that we may not be such shameless consumers after all. With ‘buy now, pay later’ apps such as Klarna and Clear-pay, it’s becoming easier than ever for those in financial distress to get something they actually want, without risking their physical wellbeing or their entire paycheck to get it because, at the end of the day, why shouldn’t we get some nice things?!
As it stands, Europe is taking a much healthier approach to Black Friday and seeing as the holiday was adopted from the US, maybe the US can learn to adopt some of these European scruples next year (seriously, go spend time with your family. You don’t need that discounted aquarium that bad).
Even more coincidental, today, on Black Friday, England will be playing against the US in the world cup. Yikes. The end of today will be a black Friday indeed for one of these two nations.