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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.”

 

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