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Grim history behind Black Friday weekend

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
(AUSTRALIA OUT) Shoppers crowd the Stella McCarthey area at Target store in Chadstone. THE AGE. Photo by ANDREW DE LA RUE (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Will you be taking advantage of the sales? Image: Getty

Black Friday is only hours away and Australia Post is preparing for its biggest weekend in history as shoppers head online in record numbers.

The postal service revealed on Thursday that over the course of 2020, it has extended the opening hours at 500 Post Offices, retrained 2,700 posties and hired another 5,000 people. However, it said this weekend will be its biggest one yet.

Many Australians have been holding out for this weekend’s sales, especially as shoppers become more confident shopping online, said Australia Post community and consumer executive general manager Nicole Sheffield.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia also said businesses are in for a huge weekend, noting that sales surged 69 per cent over the Black Friday period in 2019.

“By all indications, many of our clients are preparing for the largest online sales period on record,” CBA Institutional Bank’ managing Jake Potgieter said.

It’s clear the shopping frenzy is about to kick in, but what is Black Friday, and where did it come from?

Black Friday’s dark roots

Some people believe Black Friday was named after the 1869 crash, which saw businesses operating at a loss until the shopping frenzy of the Friday after Thanksgiving, which returned businesses’ ledgers from red to black.

However, according to History.com, this version doesn’t quite check out – although the real story is also bleak.

The first reference to Black Friday came out of America in the 1950s and was used by police to reference the hordes of shoppers who descended on malls and high streets the day after Thanksgiving.

Police had to work longer shifts due to the masses of people and traffic, and also had to monitor an increase in crime as shoplifters attempted to make the most of the general mayhem. Eventually, retailers tried to change the name of the event from Black Friday to Big Friday, but the idea didn’t catch on.

However, the term wasn’t widely used across America until the late 1980s, and only became a major shopping event in Australia in the last decade.

How good are the actual sales?

The answer to that question will vary from store to store.

However, RateCity research director Sally Tindall said Black Friday is primarily a marketing event, designed to get Aussies spending.

And it’s an effective exercise: according to Retail Doctor analysis, search volumes for the term ‘Black Friday’ increased 22 per cent since last year and 309 per cent since 2014, while forecasts suggest shoppers will inject $5 billion into the retail sector over the weekend.

A survey from Canstar found one-in-five Australians plan to shop the sale this year, up from 9 per cent in 2019.

“If you go into the sales with a set shopping list and a firm spending limit, you could come out the other side with your Christmas shopping ticked off and savings in your pocket,” Tindall said.

“But if you’re someone who gets easily distracted, your budget could completely unravel in just a few clicks of a button.”

In Australia, Kmart, Aldi and Big W have major savings on toys, fashion, homewares and tech of as much as 60 per cent.

Dozens of major fashion retailers including Nasty Gal, Cotton On, Nine West and Boohoo have significant discounts up to 60 per cent.

The sale also extends to tourism, with Flight Centre, Wotif, Expedia and Webjet also offering discount packages up to 40 per cent cheaper.

Yahoo Lifestyle has the full rundown of the best Black Friday sales in Australia.

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