By most accounts, this year's "Black Friday" shopping event was a macroeconomic success.
According to Adobe Analytics (which has an awesome, interactive platform that details shopping trends for the holiday season; you can check it out here), online shoppers had already spent $57.2 billion from November 1st to Thanksgiving Day, up 15% from the same period in 2018, and on Thanksgiving day itself, shoppers spent a record $4.2 billion on e-commerce purchases alone and spent an additional $7.5 billion on Black Friday, and were forecasted to spend $9 billion more on Cyber Monday.
The history of Black Friday is interesting.
Ben Zimmer over at the Visual Thesaurus did the dirty work and found the earliest evidence of the phrase Black Friday applied to the day after Thanksgiving in a shopping context originated in Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. This usage dates to at least 1961. As the phrase became more widespread, a popular explanation became that this day represented the point in the year when retailers begin to turn a profit, thus going from being "in the red" to being "in the black".
Black Friday used to mean something else back in the day.
For those fans of capital market history, you may recall the original Black Friday event way back in September of 1869. Two investors, Jay Gould and his partner James Fisk, tried to corner the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, whose policy was to sell Treasury gold at small weekly intervals to pay off the national debt, stabilize the dollar, and boost the economy after the Civil War. When the duo cornered the market and forced the price of gold higher and higher, President Grant decided to sell a massive portion of the government's gold horde on September 24th. This new supply of gold that hit the market forced prices drastically lower and caused a wide-spread panic across the stock and commodity markets and U.S. banking system at large. Stock prices fell 20% the week after, wheat fell from $1.40 to $0.77 a bushel, corn dropped from $0.95 to $0.68, and other commodities such as rye, oats, and barley had similar losses. This badly hurt the broader economy as 50% of the U.S. workforce at the time were farmers.
By the way, as most students of the markets know, pretty much every other weekday has been “blackened” in a similar way. Black Tuesday and Black Thursday of 1929 kicked off the Great Depression and needs no explanation, and Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) finished the day down 22.6%, was the largest one-day percentage drop in history! The weekdays would not be complete without Black Wednesday, which refers to September 16, 1992, when a collapse in the pound sterling forced Britain out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), a forerunner to stabilize European currencies in preparation for the Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of the euro.
We probably won't get a blackened Saturday or Sunday since markets are closed on the weekend…phew!