There is no doubt that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the world's most lucrative and profitable days in the retail sector, with discounts on nearly all items, ranging from cheap clothing, to advanced and modern technology. But the question is, to what extent are days like these beneficial for both consumers, and economies as a whole?

Black Friday dates back to over 150 years ago, and originated in quite a contrary fashion to what one might expect. Ironically a financial crisis ,on September 24th 1869, led to the birth of this day - two courageous and steely Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, had hoped to drive the prices of gold to all-time high, by buying large quantities, and then sell this at staggering prices, in order to make substantial profits. Indeed, Friday was the day that this ploy was uncovered, putting the stock market into turmoil. About a century later, in the 1950's, the police in Philadelphia used this term again, to describe the chaos and bedlam which Thanksgiving shoppers created and by 1961, this term had become a household name in the state. At the start of the 1980's, retailers in America had somehow managed to convert the rather disastrous roots of  Black Friday into a commercial shopping event, as retailers which had been in the "red" throughout the whole year, now turned over a profit and so were in the "black", due to heightened consumer spending, after Thanksgiving.

The amount of money which consumers spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, can be mind-boggling. According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday generated $9.8 billion in online sales, which was an increase from 7.5% compared to last year, and shoppers were estimated to have spent north of $12 billion on Cyber Monday - the event sees a staggering three times the average online  consumer traffic compared to on a normal October day. Furthermore, Black Friday was the biggest day for in-store shopping in 2022 in the States, as it amassed a total foot traffic of 72.9 million consumers. Some analysts and economists even argue that there are psychological phenomena associated with sales and discounts like these, which further fuel sales - "shopping momentum" can be generated, in which phrases such as "deal" and "bargains" trigger neurons' and impulses in our brains, which leads to people buying more and more, sometimes even unwillingly, which consequently results in an unbreakable chain of shopping. To me, it sounds well and good if billions of pounds and dollars are flowing in to the economy every year, but what effect does this have on the consumer, and why are we driven to purchase in such an impulsive manner in the first place?

As reported by many websites and economists, discretionary spending is the main factor which boosts spending on mega-days like these - Investopedia states that discretionary spending is "A cost that a business or household can survive without, if necessary." This sort of spending can only arise when families have disposable income readily available, but uncontrolled, unresearched impulse spends can have detrimental impacts on a person's private financial status. 51% of Black Friday shoppers in the UK, say that they succumbed to the temptations of "mega-deals", and 6% of shoppers admitted to spending more than they could afford on Black Friday.  Furthermore, Adobe also states that in the US, $79 million worth of consumer goods was bought using Buy Now Pay Later schemes, which can often carry heavy interest payments, especially putting the Gen Z's (ages 11-26) into debt, leading to vicious economic hardships for many people. This most certainly has a knock-on effect on the country's economy in the near future, which is further accentuated as many struggle amidst a cost-of-living crisis.

However, research has shown that a culmination of societal pressures and inherent psychological desires can also contribute to spending on Black Friday. FOMO can play a huge role, especially when businesses use marketing strategies to present their product as a need, rather than a want, so people feel like there is no option other than to spend and buy recklessly. Big retailers also often use "loss leaders" as a pricing strategy, which means that customers are lured into buying one product which is heavily discounted, and then unconsciously purchase much higher-priced items, in which the retailer can make huge sums of profit. Black Friday is also surrounded by the festive season, which doesn't do anything to help the consumer's wallet - Christmas ,being round the corner, attracts customers to purchase in order to stock up for the celebrations, with 69% of money typically going towards gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. Thanksgiving, which is just a couple of days before in the US, also drives some to buy materialistic goods in order to distract themselves and escape from the stress of families, after spending the week with their loved ones. 

Overall, there is no reason why we should not spend on Black Friday. It is vital, not only for the economy as a whole, but also for ourselves - materialistic goods and treats can often make people happier, and can be purchased at much lower prices on this day. However, we must not forget that it is important to be aware and conscious of our spending, as financial debt can rack up rapidly and needlessly transpire into many hardships and challenges. It is no doubt that the sales and deals can be a nice wintery treat, but just remember to not get caught up in a shopping spree, and end up being tricked involuntarily be profit-driven businesses.