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The darker roots of Black Friday (now Canada’s no.1 shopping holiday)

Nearly 50 per cent of Canadian shoppers plan on opening their wallets this Black Friday
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The first recorded reference to Black Friday had nothing do to with shopping. According to, Black Friday has darker roots than the door-crashing, smash and grab shopping frenzy that we now know the moniker to be associated with.

The term Black Friday dates back to September 24, 1869, and the crash of the United States gold market. Two shifty Wall Street-ers named Jay Gould and Jim Fisk plotted to buy up the lion’s share of nation’s gold with hopes of driving up the price of the precious element so it could be sold for a lucrative profit. Their plan unravelled on that Friday in September, sending the stock market into a downward spiral with the fallout resulting in bankruptcy for many.

It wasn’t until the 1950s when Black Friday’s association with shopping began. The term surfaced in Philadelphia referencing when large crowds of shoppers and tourists would flock to the city to watch the annual Army-Navy football game which fell on the same Saturday every year. In anticipation of the bedlam, Philly’s police force was barred from taking that annual Friday off and many were forced to work long hours to deal with the additional, and sometimes unruly, crowds.

By 1985 Black Friday started to become a common use term as it was reintroduced as the date retailers would celebrate starting to turn a profit and enter “the black”. This positive association initiated the growth of the American retail holiday which has slowly crept its way north of the border, now surpassing Boxing Day as the most popular shopping event among Canadians.

According to Retail Council of Canada's (RCC) second annual Holiday Shopping Survey, 43 per cent of Canadian shoppers plan to open their wallets on Black Friday, compared to the 34 per cent who plan to shop on Boxing Day. What’s more, the RCC survey indicates that half of the people planning to shop Black Friday will do it in-store compared to on-line (36 per cent) or on their mobile (15 per cent).

“We’ve seen how Black Friday has spilled into Canada how it’s become easier for local residents to shop in Canada because so many businesses here are on board now,” says Melissa Porco, Manager of Ashley Furniture HomeStore in Sault Ste. Marie. “Over the thirteen years in the furniture business, and since opening Ashley five years ago, we’ve always held Black Friday sales.”

What’s remained consistent over Porco’s years in the furniture business is the client’s desire to see a product in person and to receive quality customer service.

“In our business, the convenience of online shopping will never surpass the importance of physical touch in making a furniture purchase. When we’re talking to our customers, 98 per cent of the time they’ll say they are here because they want to sit on a sofa or touch the fabric on a chair.”

“Many people have already checked out our furniture on-line or in catalogues to see what is available but ultimately they want to see it in person.”

The brick-and-mortar retail experience seems to be trending in Canada. The RCC survey indicates that half of the people planning to shop Black Friday will do it in-store compared to on-line (36 per cent) or on their mobile (15 per cent). This demonstrates that Canadians still value meaningful and personalized shopping experiences.

Also, trending is the need to buy local. 85 per cent of those surveyed by the RCC said that buying from a Canadian retailer this holiday season is important to them.

“People may not realize that we’re a licensee, not a franchise,” explained Melissa. “This means that we’re locally owned and operated so while the store benefits from being affiliated with a national brand, we still have the flexibility to meet the needs of our local customer base.”

More than a quarter of Canadians have already started their 2019 holiday shopping. And nearly three quarters will have started by the end of November thanks to a Canadian take on an American tradition.

Visit 115 Northern Ave on November 29 to shop Ashley Furniture HomeStore’s annual Black Friday sale. For more information, click here or call 705-946-2538.