The evolution of Black Friday shopping – and what 2021 could bring

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving, a day that many businesses have historically viewed as a paid holiday for employees. Because people are at home, Kahn said retailers are slashing the prices of merchandise to attract shoppers to stores, offering discounts on important items like televisions, electronics and home appliances.

“The deals had to be worth jumping out of bed and running to the store, and maybe even standing in line for a while as well,” Kahn said.

Black Friday is originally an in-person shopping experience, unlike Amazon Prime Day and Cyber ​​Monday. Amazon Prime Day is different: It’s a buying event designed by Amazon to build market loyalty, experts tell us.

Plus, Black Friday is meant to be a social shopping experience that people participate in together, said Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insight for the National Retail Federation (NRF). Families and friends visit the stores as a group. In contrast, shopping during Amazon Prime Day and Cyber ​​Monday is a lonely activity that you can do on your phone, computer, or tablet.

How Black Friday Became Black November

Over the years, retailers have started to compete with each other to see who could open Black Friday earlier. Some, like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s, even started opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day to “join in the mad rush to see who might get people to go to their stores first,” Kahn said. . This led to Black Friday becoming what Cullen called a five-day shopping weekend starting at Thanksgiving and ending on Cyber ​​Monday. As those five days stretched into a week, then weeks, experts recently dubbed the entire month of November as “Black November,” in reference to long-term sales leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Monday and Cyber ​​Monday are flagship events that hold a very important place for both consumers and retailers, but in the larger context of a longer shopping season.

Katherine Cullen, Senior Director of Industry and Consumer Insights, National Retail Federation

Black Friday weekend marked the start of the winter holiday shopping season, while December 24 – Christmas Eve – marked its end, Cullen said. But as retailers are now offering deals earlier in November – sometimes even towards the end of October – this retail schedule is increasingly outdated.

“Before, Thanksgiving weekend was really the start of shopping season. Now we see it more as a halfway point, ”Cullen said. “Black Monday and Cyber ​​Monday are flagship events that hold a very important place for both consumers and retailers, but in the larger context of a longer shopping season.”

Starting sales earlier in November is also a response to buyer behavior, Cullen said. She explained that retailers have adjusted their sales hours as they have seen an increase in early holiday shopping, a trend that NRF surveys have supported. In 2019, surveys by NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics found that 56% of shoppers started buying holiday gifts in the first week of November, up from 48% in 2009.

With Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday now running for five days – or the entire month of November in some cases – retailers have had to strategically format their sales to ensure they maintain the interest of buyers. To do this, Cullen said some retailers promote offers on different product categories on specific days or weeks instead of offering aggregate sales throughout the month.

That’s exactly what Walmart and Target did in 2020: The two retailers reformatted their Black Friday sales due to the pandemic and to accommodate customer buying habits, offering a series of savings events. separate throughout the month of November, both online and in stores.

How Black Friday Impacts the Holiday Shopping Season

While Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday are closely tied to the biggest holiday shopping season, Cullen stressed that they are not dependent on each other. For example, when the NRF asked shoppers how much they spent over Thanksgiving weekend in 2020, it was down slightly from previous years. But sales during the overall holiday shopping season – which the NRF defines as the period November 1 to December 31 – increased 8.3% from 2019.

Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday are also impacting the retail calendar around the world. While Americans associate Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday with Thanksgiving, more than 20 countries – including the UK, Italy, Sweden and Mexico – have similar sales, with some using the same name although they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. And Black Friday shopping events all over the world take place on the same day. Kahn said it’s a testament to the legacy and weight of Black Friday: door-to-door deals and a social shopping experience designed for the holiday season.

How Covid impacted Black Friday 2020

In 2020, retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target closed their doors for in-person Thanksgiving Day purchases for the first time in years to avoid the large crowds they typically hope to see. Health and safety is at the forefront, both for buyers and retail staff, Kahn said. Instead, retailers have pushed online sales and reinvented their typical sales into month-long savings events. For example, Walmart launched Black Friday Deals for Days and Target hosted Black Friday Now, both of which were a series of shopping events throughout November available in stores and online.

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