So why is it called "Black Friday" anyway?

Black Friday sounds rather ominous doesn't it? Are we to be infected with the plague? Were they burning witches on the stake? Something doesn't seem right. Why commemorate the day by shopping? I was curious to learn a bit about how the last Friday of November came to be called Black Friday. I turned to my trusted friend Google. 

This is what he (she?) told me.


Now, back to those who are interested...

Black Friday is an American term denoting the day after the US holiday of Thanksgiving. It is regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season.

Ok, so I get the "Friday" part. Having spent a few seasons bumming around on ski resorts in California I know that Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday of November.

Friday makes sense , but why "Black" Friday?

Turns our there is no reference to plague. Rather bland really;  it's an economic term used in the retail industry. It's the traditional day in the calendar when retailers (in the US) would go from being "in the red " (making a loss) for the year to being "in the black" (making a profit) for the year as customers complete their holiday shopping.

Aaah,that makes sense, phew no plague.

Well that is a relief, except that over the last decade, some bright spark at Walmart decided that the best way to get Americans, stuffed on last nights extra helping of pumpkin pie, off their sofas would be to offer them mad discounts on crap they don't really need and so the spiral of discounting begun, causing one of the most disruptive and devastating business cycles globally. In a race to the bottom, the big guy always wins. Amazon, Walmart in the US. Takealot in SA.

Last year, instead of offering customers crazy discounts on their Post-Thanksgiving consumption, Patagonia decided to offer 100% of the proceeds from the day to grassroots environmental causes (more on that here). The proceeds ended up being $10 million! Which exceeded the companies goal of raising $2 million five times over.

The cynics and haters might choose to believe that this was a PR stunt (surely there are cheaper ways...) I choose to believe otherwise. The company has consistently and emphatically rejected consumerism and wastefulness (This blog post from 2011 I found particularly interesting).

Regardless of whether you think it was a PR stunt or not. I wonder what Patagonia, in the U.S.A will do this year?

Which brings me to the question: As the owner of the only Patagonia store in South Africa, what should I do?

As much as I'd love to donate 100% of our proceeds to one of the local grassroots causes we support like Nine Miles Project or Love Our Trails this is unsustainable for us a business  at this early stage in our existence. Instead we will continue to donate 1% of all sales (not just black friday sales) to these and other worthy causes.

So do I offer crazy discounts that will leave me feeling good about the units I've sold but unable to pay the rent? 

No. I think I'll offer up the following:


A free copy of " Let My People Go Surfing " with every purchase over R1,000 on the day.

This book has had a profound impact on the way we do business. I wish I could give it away all day everyday.I can't. But let's do it on " Black Friday" with a touch of irony.

Here is what else I'll give you.

An Ironclad Guarantee

If it's broken , we'll fix it. It doesn't matter if you bought it overseas or from my store. It also doesn't matter if it was a manufacturing defect or a run in with a barbwire fence. We want your clothes to last so we'll help you repair it.

Furthermore, if something doesn't perform in the way you expected it to. Return it for a repair, replacement or refund.

Last but not least, check out our end of line items on sale now.

Hope you get something you really need this Christmas.