The first recorded use of the term Black Friday referred to a financial crisis in 1869 involving the crash of the U.S. gold market. In the 1950s, Philadelphia police used the term Black Friday to describe shopping chaos that occurred the day after Thanksgiving. Shoppers and tourists in town for an Army-Navy football game created a shopping frenzy. Police worked long hours that day to help control the shopping traffic and minimize shoplifting.

Dave Overfelt

Dave Overfelt

Missouri Retailers Association President Dave Overfelt says in 1961, some complaining that the term Black Friday has a negative connotation tried to change the name to Big Friday. For decades, retailers have referred to Black Friday as the time when many of them begin to turn a profit, by going from being “in the red” to being “in the black”.

“We’ll probably always be calling it Black Friday, but it’s got a very interesting historical context that goes back more than 50 years,” says Overfelt. “It’s got an interesting history. It’s where you want to place it. I believe that as a retailer, our position is that it’s always a marker time of the year when we actually start seeing our businesses go into the black.”

November and December retail sales are expected to increase 3.6% from last year to more than $655 billion nationwide, with Black Friday being the most important shopping day of the year for many retailers. Online sales are projected to increase to about $117 billion.

Some shopping centers, including the Mall of America, will be closed on Thanksgiving. Overfelt says the holiday is a critical time for many Missouri stores.

“They (retailers) have competition that is very tough that doesn’t have to worry about employing people having brick and mortar. They just ship and that’s what they do and they don’t collect sales tax, etc. It’s a pretty tough time for a brick and mortar retailer if you’re not going to look at every avenue to stay competitive,” says Overfelt.

Overfelt urges Missourians to call or stop by stores to check if they are open on Thanksgiving.

According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, which is in line with last year’s 675,300 holiday positions.