Black Friday sales are here, but why is this American concept taking off in Australia?

As Black Friday has become increasingly popular, November has become Australia's busiest shopping month.

A store displays Black Friday advertising in downtown in Madrid, Spain, 27 November 2019.

A store displays Black Friday advertising in downtown in Madrid, Spain, 27 November 2019. Source: EFE

November has become the busiest month for Australian shoppers, as many consumers move to embrace cyber events and Black Friday sales.

Last year alone, the Black Friday sales generated over $400 million.

But what are these sales? And how have they become so important to Australians?

The Black Friday sales originally began the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

Unlike other holidays - like Christmas and Hanukkah - Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, celebrated with a few days break for all Americans.

Robin Hazal shops at a Kohl's ahead of Black Friday, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019.
Robin Hazal shops at a Kohl's ahead of Black Friday, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Source: AP

Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, leaving many Americans with a free day on the Friday before the weekend.

Retailers took this opportunity to turn that into a sales day, to drive profits.

It’s now the biggest shopping day across the United States and Canada.

University of New South Wales’ Airport Economist Tim Harcourt says the sales came to Australia as international retailers became more prominent.

“It’s part of the global economy with international retail outlets wanting to get economies to scale," he said.

"If they’re advertising in the US anyway, and they’ve got an international presence, they might as well do it anywhere.”

Why is it called Black Friday?

The name Black Friday was coined by policemen across the US, because of the violence and even deaths that occurred in the manic sales across the country.

The sales are now important retail events across Europe, The Middle East, Australia, South Africa, South America and some Asian nations.

But as retailers have expanded internationally, the name has lost some of its relevance.

Across the United Arab Emirates, the sales are referred to as White Friday sales, taking the American tradition and adapting it to fit in with Middle-Eastern culture, as Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated across the Middle East. 

For many Middle-Eastern nations, Friday is a weekend day.

It's a day of worship for millions of Muslims, so the sales were renamed to better suit the day of worship and promote positive connotations.

Black Friday in Australia

But in Australia, Black Friday was the name originally given to the bushfires that killed 71 people in Victoria, in 1939.

Mr Harcourt says the name could be problematic for some Australians who were affected by the fires.

“It’s a little bit of a problem in a sense for Australians, because Black Friday was meant to be the anniversary of the Bushfires in various states.

And so, some people, I guess, who have been affected by bushfires might find it strange having the retailers jumping on it and calling it black Friday as well. So it’s a little bit problematic in Australia because we have had those tragic fires.”

The sales will begin on Friday, with Australians expected to spend over $1.3 billion over the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

3 min read
Published 28 November 2019 at 4:19pm
By Antoinette Radford