Today is called Black Friday or as it used to be known, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is not an official public holiday though many government employees and a select number of private companies do take the day off. Schools are generally out as well so a lot of kids from grade school to college have the day off. The day after Thanksgiving has been a major retail event for decades. And the term “Black Friday” likely came from such overwhelming numbers of people and vehicles filling the streets, sidewalks, and malls on this particular day.
Until fairly recently most retail stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Only a limited number of stores, often grocery and 24 hour restaurant or retail operations, would be open. Usually stores would open around 6:00am the next day but a few years ago some big retailers like Target started opening up at midnight and then kept pushing it back so now many open on the afternoon or early evening. It has not been without controversy as workers get a limited Thanksgiving with their families but are paid overtime for working the holiday as required by law. And sadly many incidents of people being stomped on or worse as the masses of people flood into stores. There have been incidences of fights over bargain items and one notable case pepper spray was deployed by a shopper to prevent others from getting what she wanted.
Black Friday is often used to measure consumer spending for the upcoming Christmas season. Merchants use the data from the sales made to forecast what the projected seasonal earnings will be. In 2014 despite huge numbers of people in the stores, sales were not significantly higher than the previous year. This meant that while sales were going to be okay they would not be breaking any records. Breaking it down further you can see what people are buying and adjust sales and inventory accordingly.
Of course if you want to avoid the whole Black Friday mess and have access to the internet, you can shop from the comfort of your home. Why stand outside a store for hours when you can order the very product you want, often with the same discount, when you can do it at home? That is something likely to get stronger if the present trends hold up which is why there is now a Cyber Monday.