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The Little-Known Philadelphia Origins Of Black Friday

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Crowds wait in line for Black Friday deals at Toys R Us.

Crowds wait in line for Black Friday deals at Toys R Us.

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Black Friday has become a major marketing tool used by retailers nationwide, but the term originated right here in Philadelphia. And it wasn’t because businesses finally showed a profit.

Sure, everybody calls it Black Friday now, but retail scholar Michael Lisicky says for decades, it was an inside term — first coined in 1966 by Philadelphia Police — because they hated it.

“Black Friday was used as a term — it was not a happy term.”

Lisicky, who has written books about Gimbels and Wanamakers, says buses idled longer, because so many people were getting on an off, downtown, and shoplifters were taking advantage of the crowds to steal merchandise.

“The stores were just too crowded, the streets were crowded, the buses and the police were just on overcall and extra duty.”

Lisicky says the term actually scared shoppers away — who wanted to be out on Black Friday? So, Peter Strawbridge invented a new explanation for the term: that it was the day business profits went into the black.

“That, of course, wasn’t true, “The busiest shopping day is the Saturday before Christmas.”

No matter. Rebranded, the term became widely adopted.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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