After extra Thanksgiving meal portions, many Americans plan to “shop off” their holiday eating the day after: Black Friday. While it’s become a new tradition to shop for holiday gifts at deep discounts — and many manufacturers are offering their employees the day off — manufacturers themselves are behind the mass production of goods that shoppers will be waiting for in Friday’s wee hours. But where does Black Friday come from, when did it become the event it is today, and how do manufacturers produce so much?
Although some insidious myths surround it, the true story of Black Friday comes from 1950s Philadelphia. Every year, tourists would head to Philly the Friday after Thanksgiving to shop and see the sights the day before the Army-Navy football game the following day. The city would become so crowded and unruly that police had to work long shifts in attempts to direct traffic, control larger-than-usual crowds, and stem shoplifting.
Retailers in the 1980s took the name back and focused it on sales with the story that, on the biggest shopping day of the year, they went out of the red and “into the black.” Instead of operating at a loss as they had done prior to the day after Thanksgiving, the holiday sales boosted their sales and brought profits back to black, hence Black Friday.
Black Friday has also spawned additional retail celebrations in days after, including Small Business Saturday, a day to support local businesses, and Cyber Monday, the online shopping extravaganza. But where do store owners — whether major retailers, small businesses, or eCommerce retailers — get all the merchandise they’ll sell on Black Friday and after?
While shoppers may become frustrated if a store sells out of the items they had their hearts set on, the stakes are higher for some manufacturers.
- In terms of goods, manufacturers must plan far in advance, communicating with vendors and suppliers to ensure they have appropriate raw materials to meet output goals. Compounded by shortages, this also makes room for increased risks if they were to miss a shipment entirely or ship late. While faced with these challenges on the production floor, manufacturing issues don’t stop there.
- Those who manufacture consumer goods can be faced with high production goals in the months leading up to the holiday season because of increased demand for their products. Output pressure mounts as more personnel are required on plant floors to meet those goals, stemming back to the need to hire the right people and train them as well.
- With deeply discounted prices on many items, some manufacturers also see issues surrounding fakes as others try to take a cut of their business, which can weaken the original manufacturers’ brands. Competing manufacturers may create lookalikes in hopes of raking in profits, making it important for consumers to ensure they’re buying the real thing.
- Tracking and planning can only go so far in predicting the popularity of certain products this time of year, and manufacturers can’t count their chickens before their eggs hatch. They must deal with predicting what they’ll sell on Black Friday, and both overproduction and underproduction can cause equally difficult issues.
Whether you’re planning to shop late Thanksgiving night, hit the stores as the sun rises on Black Friday — or you’re waiting for Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday to do your shopping — don’t forget the hard work and dedication manufacturers put into producing the must-have wares you’ve circled in your local retail flyers.