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The origins of Black Friday and a tale of holiday marketing

Children waiting for the Thalhimers Christmas Parade.  Photo by Bill Lane (Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, Valentine Richmond History Center)

Reading the Examiner yesterday, I discovered some interesting facts about the origins of Black Friday.

Back in the day, department stores used to lure parents in for shopping the day after Thanksgiving by having downtown Christmas parades.  They hoped the parents who brought their children to see the parade would decide to go shopping in the stores afterwards.

But the combination of street closures and influx of cars caused such traffic problems, the local police started calling this day “Black Friday.”  And the name stuck.

Now retailers call it “Black Friday” because this is usually the weekend they begin turning a profit — or move into the “black.”  Retailers bring in an average of 40% of their revenues between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When my sister and I were young children, we got to ride the toy train in the Thalhimers Toy Parade because my mom worked in the special events office for the Richmond, VA department store and helped plan the Christmas parade (see video below).

She was also the first “Snow Bear.”  I still remember wondering where my mom was in that big suit as she handed out lollipops to children in the department store.  Here’s a nostalgic video peek at Snow Bear.

And here is my mom’s recollection of what it was like to work for one of the city’s largest department stores during the holidays, and be the first “Snow Bear.”


November Engagement and Marketing Opportunities

Mark these events in your marketing calendar this month…

Friday, November 2: Digital Capital Week features free presentations now through November 9.  Follow @DCWEEK on Twitter and use hashtag #dcweek.

Sunday, November 4: Remind your followers that daylight savings time ends today; set clocks back one hour and check your smoke detectors.

Monday, November 5:  Time to start planning for the holidays!  Contact Fletcher Prince before Thanksgiving to design your company’s holiday card, and to schedule production of your holiday greeting video.

Tuesday, November 6: Today is Election Day!  Who will be our President?  Tie news developments into the conversation of the day.  May the best candidate win!

Friday, November 9: Foto Week DC kicks off today and runs through November 19.  Check out the seminars and exhibitions that will be offered around town this week.   Follow @FotoWeekDC on Twitter and use hashtag #fotoweekdc.

Sunday, November 11: Happy Birthday to Fletcher Prince client Mary-Jane Atwater of Atwater Communications!

Monday, November 12: It’s Veteran’s Day, and a Federal  holiday, so people will be online in increased numbers during business hours.  Say thank you with a military discount or a freebie to area vets.

Tuesday, November 13: Best wishes for a blessed and happy Diwali!

Thursday, November 15: The Washington PR Woman of the Year Award Luncheon takes place today.  The three honorees are all amazing women of accomplishment.  If this is an audience you want to reach, the sponsorship deal offered by Washington Women in Public Relations is one of the best marketing offers available from a local communications organization.  Follow @WWPR on Twitter and use hashtag #WOY12.

Monday, November 19: Happy Birthday to Fletcher Prince buddy Sabrina Kidwai!

In the season of Thanksgiving, tell your customers and clients how thankful you are for their support.  Ask Fletcher Prince to help you record a Thanksgiving video message and email it to your permission-based list.  Collect donations at your place of business for area food banks.

Wednesday, November 21: Today is World Hello Day.  The idea is you are supposed to say hello to ten people today and spread the idea of world peace.  Sounds good to me!

Thursday, November 22: Happy Thanksgiving!  Suspend your marketing messages online and wish your supporters a happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 23: Today is Black Friday, a huge volume shopping day.  Create special offers and promotions for your Facebook Page and Twitter followers.

At 7 pm, visit Old Town Alexandria, Virginia for the annual Tree Lighting in Market Square on King Street.  There will be free seasonal entertainment, too.

Saturday, November 24: Today is Small Business Saturday, a day set aside for consumers to frequent small businesses in their holiday shopping.

Monday, November 26: Today is “Cyber Monday” known for increased online sales and e-commerce.  Make sure your e-commerce websites can handle the online traffic today and dedicate a staff person to staffing your Facebook Page and Twitter account all day long for complaints or issues. Use the hashtag #CyberMonday.

Tuesday, November 27:  Happy Birthday to Fletcher Prince buddy Ann Bevans-Selig!

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