Black has long had a connotation of evil and malice. The mythical Grim Reaper, the collector of souls, is depicted as a skeleton shrouded in black, and of course Darth Vader wouldn’t have been quite so sinister if he was costumed in sunshine yellow. When it comes to the business world, however, black is the best that can be hoped for. Black doesn’t indicate death, despair or evil, but is actually a signifier of prosperity (and profit), for when a business is actually turning a profit, it’s said to be “in the black.” Being in the red is undesirable when operating a business or enterprise, since to be in the red is to be losing money (bleeding), although the whole black/red classification actually comes from the pre-computerized time of accounting practices when black ink was used to note a profit and red ink to note a loss.
The Friday after Thanksgiving has become the starting point of the frenzied festive shopping season and is commonly known as Black Friday. The term originally had negative connotations when it was popularized in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, used to describe the high (and often dangerous) levels of pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the roads immediately after Thanksgiving. The term was appropriated by the retail sector in the 1980’s, when it was used as a reference for stores getting back in the black, due to a massive surge in sales on and after the Friday in question.
While retailers had been traditionally focussing their marketing efforts in the lead up to the festive shopping season, consumers had already (over time) been conditioned to begin preparing for Christmas immediately after Thanksgiving. Of course, stores feel a necessity to promote their holiday sales, but there are already a huge number of shoppers out and about (and spending).
With the advent of Internet shopping, it’s hardly surprising that an online competitor to Black Friday was established, albeit in a fairly cynical manner. While collective retail outlets, through their marketing and sales strategies, created the concept of Black Friday (and the customer desire to begin spending around this time on promotions like this one); this was done over the course of many years, generations in fact. The creation of the online Black Friday alternative took place via a press release from online retail giant Shop.org in 2005, when the Monday after Black Friday was classified as Cyber Monday, in an attempt to drive online sales by turning this seemingly random day into an annual retail event.
Despite the fact that it was created by the marketing arm of a large retail corporation, Cyber Monday has become exceedingly popular since its inception, and in 2010, online sales exceeded $1 billion on Cyber Monday alone. While the concept of this day as a retail event is entirely artificial, it’s a logical companion to the frenzied shopping evident on Black Friday, and it allows larger retailers to diversify their marketing efforts, as well as allowing smaller online retailers to get their piece of the pie- a pie that gets larger year by year.
In the early days of Cyber Monday, a number of online retailers were caught off guard, as heavy usage caused their sites to buckle and eventually crash. While this still occurs, retailers have wised up and taken steps to ensure that their online resources have additional capacity, meaning that customers don’t miss out (and so that retailers don’t either). Support industries also are stretched to the limit, with Visa reporting an increase in the usage of their cards of more than 25% on this day alone.