The History (and Future) of Black Friday

Black Friday has Become a Major Sales Day — Online Also

Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. While you may not think anything of this particular day, there are many people (and brands) who look forward to it with a myriad of emotions all year long. They have it circled on their calendars — probably underlined and using exclamation points, too. These people will also assuredly refer to this day using an oddly ominous name:

Black Friday.

While “Black Friday” technically refers to the day after Thanksgiving (meaning Friday, Nov. 26 in 2021), the “Holiday” has become more of a free-floating and untimed excuse to entice consumers and create conversions via deep discounts and can’t-miss sales. According to The New York Times’ “Wirecutter” blog, Black Friday 2021 sales were spotted as early as the waning days of October — and are expected to extend all the way through “Cyber Monday” (Nov. 29) and even into early December.

Maybe we should start using the phrase…

Black Days.

Then again, probably not. Here at Zillion, we’re so deeply invested in delivering the best jewelry insurance available online, we don’t really have time to think about taglines or catch phrases. For now, let’s just take a closer look at Black Friday — and some of what was expected to surround and define it during this always-odd and challenging year known as 2021.

Deep Roots

The history of Black Friday in America is actually quite fascinating. According to many accounts, the term was first used all the way back on Sept. 24, 1869, when a pair of investors (“entrepreneurs”?) named Jay Gould and Jim Fisk drove up the price of gold, thereby causing a “crash” soon after. The stock market dropped a full 20%. Foreign trade came to a grinding halt. Farmers suffered a 50% plunge in wheat and corn harvest value. A full century later, overworked Philadelphia police began using the term to describe the day after Thanksgiving, when the city’s streets became flooded with people heading to the Army-Navy football game and hunting for downtown department store deals. Many of those Philadelphia department stores attempted to “rebrand” this day as “Big Friday,” but the term never took hold.

As it relates to retail, the use of “Black” is a bit, well, sunnier. At least for the retailers and stores themselves, who end up “in the black” due to robust sales that day. Consumers have long been known to take the day to the extreme, with some even opting to camp out in front of stores overnight to beat the early morning crowds.


Fast forward to 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted and changed everything over the past few years, including the once-robust and entirely routine practice of in-store shopping. A year ago, with the pandemic still surging and vaccines not yet readily available, most retailers made the extraordinary decision to shutter their doors on Black Friday. That resulted in an estimated 58.7 million in-store Black Friday shoppers across America — a 37% drop from 2019, per data from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

But according to KPMG’s Consumer Pulse survey for the 2021 Holiday season, in-store shopping is set to return this Black Friday — and likely in a big way. Of the survey’s 1,000-plus consumer respondents, 32% said they plan to shop in person on Black Friday (compared to just 16% in 2020).

“After having its future relevance questioned last year, Black Friday makes a strong comeback, securing its top spot as the most important shopping event of this holiday season,” said KPMG National Advisory and Strategy Leader Scott Rankin.  “As nearly one-third of consumers surveyed have definite plans to shop in-store that day, the search for deals pairs nicely with increased holiday spending budgets.”

Holiday sales on the whole are looking strong for 2021. In another recent KPMG survey report of more than 100 retail executives entitled “Merry and bright: Retail executives are hopeful for the upcoming holiday season,” Holiday sales were expected to represent more than one-third of the surveyed companies’ total annual sales. KPMG anticipates that sales growth will surge 7 percent higher (year over year) compared to annual historical growth.

eCommerce Also Surging — Big Time

While all of this is very good news for brick-and-mortar store operators, online shopping and eCommerce were already increasingly strong prior to the pandemic — and now, they’re even more deeply ingrained in consumers’ conscious, consistent behavior. Some data shows that as much as 60% of 2021 Holiday shopping is expected to be conducted online (which is an increase of 8% from 2020).

Any increase from 2020 is saying something, as 2020 proved to be a record-breaking year for online shopping and eCommerce, with more than 100 million consumers making a purchase online, per NRF data. That figure was up from 93.2 million in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic altered all our daily (and Holiday) realities. On “Cyber Monday” of last year, online spending nearly reached $10 billion, according to Comscore data.

As far as hard dollars go, Adobe data revealed that American consumers spent around $9 billion online during Black Friday 2020, and $10.8 billion by the end of Cyber Monday.

Online sales should be even more robust this year. Retailers surveyed by KPMG predicted that 2021 Black Friday eCommerce figures will surpass 2020 levels — to the tune of robust 35% growth. Retail executives said they will rely heavily on now-ubiquitous options such as buying online and picking up curbside.  

Supply Chain Gets Yanked

Whether you decide to do your Black Friday shopping in person or online this year, there’s a strong chance the ongoing global supply chain bottleneck will affect your purchase (or at least its delivery date). From shipping delays to port crowding to factory shutdowns to an overall shortage of workers, the current supply chain situation has become an increasingly common reality of life in late 2021.

The KPMG Consumer Pulse survey saw more than half of its consumer respondents describe themselves as at least “somewhat concerned” about in-store “stockouts” and shipping delays. In the KPMG Holiday survey, retailers expressed even stronger concerns over supply chain issues, with 82% of retail executives surveyed saying they’re “somewhat” to “very concerned” about inventory shortages.

Speaking of Chains…

When it comes to desired and popular purchases during Black Friday, jewelry seems to be trending. MasterCard SpendingPulse data showed that during the 2020 Holiday season, online jewelry sales increased 44.6% from their 2019 levels.

(Much to our chagrin here at Zillion, the data didn’t really delve into numbers relating to jewelry insurance…)

This surge is expected to continue in 2021 — and it may also extend back into the brick-and-mortal realm. In one survey, 28% of respondents said they plan to visit a physical store on Black Friday 2021 — with 62% of them seeking clothing, accessories, and/or jewelry. This category was easily the most popular among in-store shoppers regardless of age. Among female shoppers, that figure rose to 70%.

Enhance Your eCommerce with Zillion

Here at Zillion, we encourage you to take any and every step possible to bring your brick-and-mortar jewelry store into full compliance and comfort within the digital world — not just in anticipation of Black Friday, but for everyday success. As you can see, eCommerce and consumer online shopping desires aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’ll only continue to emerge, surge and evolve.

Zillion is already optimized to maximize and streamline consumers’ online jewelry purchases — on Black Friday or any other day of the year. From its smooth, easy online experience to its affordable price point to its just-one-click convenience, Zillion delivers out-the-door insurance coverage of their precious, prized new jewelry. This way, they can wear it with confidence — just as soon as they get to call it their own.

Want to learn more? Visit our jewelers page now to learn how you can easily and efficiently partner with us to deliver superior customer experiences. You can also take a closer look at Zillion reviews.

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