Black Monday puts retail group in spotlight

Until last week, Black Monday referred to October 19, 1987, the day the stock market plunged almost 30%, signaling the end of the "go-go" '80s and the dawn of the "I used to drive a much better car" '90s.

Until last week, Black Monday referred to October 19, 1987, the day the stock market plunged almost 30%, signaling the end of the "go-go" '80s and the dawn of the "I used to drive a much better car" '90s.

But seemingly out of nowhere, the term was reborn last week. Major dailies, morning news shows, cable networks - just about everyone went on about the Monday after Thanksgiving being the biggest online shopping day of the year. Supposedly, people return to work from their holiday weekends ready to take advantage of their office internet connections for some serious online shopping.

A Factiva search reveals that the term had been used moderately since 2003, but with nowhere near the saturation it received last week. (The new holiday takes its name from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers traditionally go into the black for the year.)

We wish we could tell you that a holiday miracle was responsible for the rebranding of this once-negative phrase, but it turns out that last Monday did not get so black on its own. It was, in fact, largely the work of the National Retail Federation.

The NRF, working through its consumer website, Shop.org, ensured the "holiday" would be top-of-mind with the media by pushing it in the run-up to Thanksgiving.

Calling it "Cyber Monday," Shop.org started talking up the holiday a week in advance with enough reporters to get quoted in no fewer than 15 outlets around the world when the day came, including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Whether it was the biggest online shopping day of the year remains to be seen. It was surely the NRF's biggest day in a while.

Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's news editor.

Ratings:
1. Clueless
2. Ill-advised
3. On the right track
4. Savvy
5. Ingenious

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