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A beginner’s guide to Black Friday

PUBLISHED: 09:22 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:34 21 November 2018

Shoppers will be able to find great savings from independent retailers in Ipswich town centre too. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

Shoppers will be able to find great savings from independent retailers in Ipswich town centre too. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Black Friday is one of the newest arrivals on our shores. Where did it come from and why... and is it the best time to shop?

Black Friday has become a big retail opportunity. This 2014 picture shows enthusiastic shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley, north west London. Photo: David Parry/PA WireBlack Friday has become a big retail opportunity. This 2014 picture shows enthusiastic shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley, north west London. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

Black Friday is upon us.

November 23 2018 is the designated day although many sellers extend it over the weekend or even devote a whole week to bargain buys. (eg. Black Five Days at Morrisons)

It began − as so many retail opportunities do − in America and, traditionally, it is the day after Thanksgiving, which is on Thursday, November 22 and involves turkey, mashed potato, and pumpkin or pecan pie. As the Thursday is a holiday, so the Friday has also become a day off in some mployment sectors and states. And what better to do with it than eat leftovers and spend money.

In the US, it has been termed Black Friday since the 80s although it is a relatively recent addition to the British calendar. You have to wonder how soon we will also adopt Thanksgiving... we’ve already fallen for American-style Hallowe’en.

Picture: Cicero Castro/Getty Images/iStockphotoPicture: Cicero Castro/Getty Images/iStockphoto

But these things can take time to cross the Atlantic. Black Friday is considered to have started in 1940s America when stores would offer hefty discounts and people would flock into town to scoop up the bargains and the event simply grew and grew.

Why is it dubbed Black Friday? One theory is that police in Philadelphia named it thus because of the sheer numbers of people and vehicles they had to deal with on the day after Thanksgiving. Another possible explanation is that Black Friday was the day retailers saw their balance sheets turn from being in the red to in the black.

How did it arrive in the UK? Well, it took a while − more than 70 years and it seems to have been prompted by the giant online trader, Amazon, which according to www.cityam.com started offering Black Friday discounts in 2010. Having thrown down the retail gauntlet, other sellers sat up and took notice with Currys & PC World following suit in 2012.

By 2015, the annual discount day had really taken off and it became, perhaps, the first big day of retail Christmas. All the indications are that it is now in the UK for good. By 2016 fewer than 2 in 10 Britons didn’t know what Black Friday is. Now we’re all at it and the rest of Europe has also begun to take note.

A 2015  picture of an Ipswich store ready for Black Friday. Picture: Phil MorleyA 2015 picture of an Ipswich store ready for Black Friday. Picture: Phil Morley

Without Thanksgiving, however, Black Friday seems rather isolated. Our nearest celebration of the earth’s bounty is harvest festival but this is usually a month earlier than Thanksgiving... and we don’t get a national holiday, although we do get to offload that tin of marrowfat peas that’s been in the cupboard for more than a year when the children take food items into school for the harvest collection.

While, as a nation, we can be fierce about our traditions, we are not averse to adopting new ones. The early May Bank Holiday, for example, celebrated on the first Monday of May came into being as recently as 1978.

So do enjoy Black Friday, whether in stores or online. But before we go bonkers with the debit card − just how good are the bargains? Well, research out this week from consumer magazine Which? suggests that most products can be found for even lower prices at other times of year... although the website Trusted Reviews has said that Black Friday can be the best time to buy many products, particularly tech items.

What to do? Well, consumers are being advised to download their own price trackers to check the history of prices for products.

Caveat emptor - buyer beware.

My personal tip for Black Friday is to buy what you were always going to buy. Lured by what seemed a terrific price cut, I bought a wristband that monitors your steps, heart rate and calories. I thought it might make a nice Christmas present until I realised that the recipient might feel I thought they were unfit and a bit lardy. It languishes on top of the chest of drawers to this day. If, like Oscar Wilde you can resist anything except temptation, then it is best not to go out and not to fire up the laptop until... oh, let’s say, November 30.

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