Black Friday: What It Is, How to Score the Best Deals


Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. It’s a day when retailers offer significant discounts, attracting shoppers both online and in stores. This article explores the history, significance, and evolution of Black Friday, along with its impact on the economy and the rise of Cyber Monday. It also provides insights into consumer behavior and the importance of this day for economists. Learn how Black Friday has become a major event for both shoppers and businesses, influencing holiday sales and retail strategies.

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday refers to the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, which has traditionally been a holiday itself for many employees. It is typically a day full of special shopping deals and big discounts and is considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

The significance of Black Friday

Some investors and analysts look at Black Friday numbers as a way to gauge the overall health of the entire retail industry. Others scoff at the notion that Black Friday has any real fourth-quarter predictability for the stock markets as a whole. Instead, they suggest that it only causes very short-term gains or losses.

However, in general, the stock market can be affected by having extra days off for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It tends to see increased trading activity and higher returns the day before a holiday or a long weekend, a phenomenon known as the holiday effect or the weekend effect. Many traders look to capitalize on these seasonal bumps.

Understanding Black Friday

It’s common for retailers to offer special promotions online and in-store on Black Friday. Many open their doors during the pre-dawn hours on Black Friday to attract customers. To keep up with the competition, some retailers have gone so far as to keep their operations going on the Thanksgiving holiday, while others begin offering deals earlier during November.

Really avid bargain hunters have been known to camp out overnight on Thanksgiving to secure a place in line at a favorite store; the most fanatical have been known to skip Thanksgiving dinner altogether and camp out in parking lots for days or even weeks to get great deals. The promotions usually continue through Sunday, and both brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers see a spike in sales.

The surprising origins of Black Friday

The concept of retailers throwing post-Turkey Day sales started long before “Black Friday” was actually coined. In an effort to kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang and attract hordes of shoppers, stores have promoted major deals the day after Thanksgiving for decades, banking on the fact that many companies and businesses gave employees that Friday off.

So why the name? Some say the day is called Black Friday as an homage to the term “black” referring to profitability, which stems from the old bookkeeping practice of recording profits in black ink and losses in red ink. The idea is retail businesses sell enough on this Friday (and the ensuing weekend) to put themselves “in the black” for the rest of the year.

However, long before it started appearing in advertisements and commercials, the term was actually coined by overworked Philadelphia police officers. In the 1950s, crowds of shoppers and visitors flooded the City of Brotherly Love the day after Thanksgiving. Not only did Philadelphia stores tout major sales and the unveiling of holiday decorations on this special day, but the city also hosted the Army-Navy football game on Saturday of the same weekend.

As a result, traffic cops were required to work 12-hour shifts to deal with the throngs of drivers and pedestrians, and they were not allowed to take the day off. Over time, the annoyed officers—using a descriptive that’s no longer acceptable—started to refer to this dreaded workday as Black Friday.

The term spread to store salespeople who used “Black Friday” to describe the long lines and general chaos they had to deal with on that day. It remained Philadelphia slang for a few decades, spreading to a few nearby cities, such as Trenton, N.J.

Finally, in the mid-1990s—celebrating the positive connotation of black ink—”Black Friday” swept the nation and started to appear in print and TV ad campaigns across the United States.

The evolution of Black Friday

Somewhere along the way, Black Friday made the giant leap from congested streets and crowded stores to fevered shoppers fighting over parking spaces and tussling over the latest must-have toy. When did Black Friday become the frenzied, over-the-top shopping event it is today?

That would be in the 2000s when Black Friday was officially designated the biggest shopping day of the year. Until then, that title had gone to the Saturday before Christmas. Yet, as more retailers started touting “can’t miss” post-Thanksgiving sales, and the Black Friday discounts grew deeper and deeper, American consumers could no longer resist the pull of this big shopping day.

In 2011, Walmart announced that, instead of opening its doors on Friday morning, it would start sales on Thanksgiving evening. That started a frenzy among other big-box retailers who quickly followed suit. Today, Black Friday is a longer event—a Black Weekend.

Black Friday and retail spending

Retailers may spend an entire year planning their Black Friday sales. They use the day as an opportunity to offer rock-bottom prices on overstock inventory and to offer doorbusters and discounts on seasonal items, such as holiday decorations and typical holiday gifts.

Retailers also offer significant discounts on big-ticket items and top-selling brands of TVs, smart devices, and other electronics, luring customers in the hope that, when inside, they will purchase higher-margin goods. The contents of Black Friday advertisements are often so highly anticipated that retailers go to great lengths to ensure they don’t leak out publicly beforehand.

Consumers often shop on Black Friday for the hottest trending items, which can lead to stampedes and violence in the absence of adequate security. For example, on Black Friday in 1983, customers engaged in scuffles, fistfights, and stampedes in stores across the U.S. to buy Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, that year’s must-have toy, which was also believed to be in short supply.

Appallingly, a worker at a big store was trampled to death on Black Friday in 2008, as throngs of shoppers pushed their way into the store when the doors opened.

Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday

For online retailers, a similar tradition has arisen on the Monday following Thanksgiving—Cyber Monday. The idea is that consumers return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, ready to start shopping. Online retailers often herald their promotions and sales prior to the actual day in order to compete against the Black Friday offerings at brick-and-mortar stores.

As a result, in terms of sales, Cyber Monday has proved a hit among shoppers. However, Black Friday has become an even bigger hit. Though Cyber Monday had traditionally been the biggest online shopping day of the year, it has been surpassed by Black Friday since 2019.

About 87.2 million shopped online on Black Friday 2022; the numbers for Cyber Monday were 77 million, according to the NRF.

Also part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend shopping bonanza is Small Business Saturday, which was created to encourage consumers to shop locally at small businesses.

Why is Black Friday important to economists?

The money spent by consumers on Black Friday is seen as a measure of the economy. It gives economists a way to gauge consumer confidence and discretionary spending.

When is Black Friday?

Black Friday occurs the day after Thanksgiving. In 2023, Black Friday takes place on Nov. 24.

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday takes place on the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 29 in 2023). Online retailers offer sales on this day and traditional retailers offer exclusive, website-only deals.

Black Friday deals and discounts

Black Friday is synonymous with jaw-dropping discounts and exclusive deals. Retailers across the United States prepare months in advance to entice shoppers with irresistible offers on a wide range of products. From electronics to clothing, toys, and household items, the variety of discounted goods available is staggering.

Examples of Black Friday deals

1. Electronics: Shoppers often flock to stores to snag heavily discounted TVs, laptops, and smartphones. For example, you might find a high-end television that’s typically priced at $1,000 marked down to $500 or even less.

2. Fashion and Apparel: Clothing stores offer significant markdowns on trendy clothing, shoes, and accessories. Shoppers can save big on designer brands and winter attire.

3. Toys and Games: Parents can seize the opportunity to purchase popular toys at a fraction of their original cost. For instance, a $50 toy might be available for just $20.

4. Home Appliances: Black Friday is an excellent time to upgrade your home appliances. You could find refrigerators, washing machines, and kitchen gadgets at remarkably reduced prices.

The rise of extended Black Friday sales

What was once a single-day shopping frenzy has evolved into a multi-day event. Retailers now offer discounts not only on Black Friday but throughout the weekend, often extending into Cyber Monday. This extended period provides consumers with more time to explore deals and make purchases.

Black Friday week

Some retailers have extended Black Friday into an entire week of deals, starting as early as the Monday before Thanksgiving. This approach caters to those who prefer to shop at their convenience and avoid the chaos of in-store shopping on the actual day.

Early bird and night owl sales

Retailers often divide their Black Friday sales into early bird and night owl specials. Early bird sales cater to shoppers who arrive at stores in the early morning hours, while night owl sales target those who prefer late-night shopping.

The impact of Black Friday on small businesses

While large retailers dominate the Black Friday landscape, small businesses also benefit from this shopping extravaganza. Small Business Saturday, which falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, encourages consumers to support local businesses. This initiative has gained traction in recent years, with many small businesses offering their own deals and discounts.

Supporting local communities

By shopping at small businesses on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, consumers play a vital role in supporting their local communities. These businesses often rely on holiday sales to thrive throughout the year.

Unique and handcrafted gifts

Small businesses often offer unique and handcrafted items that can’t be found in larger retail chains. Shoppers looking for distinctive gifts for their loved ones can discover a wide range of options at these establishments.

The evolution of online shopping on Black Friday

With the advent of e-commerce, Black Friday has also transitioned into the digital realm. The rise of online shopping has led to the creation of Cyber Monday, where consumers can find exclusive web-only deals. This shift has changed the way people approach Black Friday shopping.

Convenient online shopping

Online retailers offer a convenient shopping experience, allowing consumers to browse and purchase products from the comfort of their homes. This convenience has contributed to the increasing popularity of online Black Friday shopping.

Early access and pre-Black Friday sales

Many online retailers provide early access to Black Friday deals, often starting in the days leading up to the event. This enables shoppers to plan and prepare for their purchases, avoiding the rush of the day itself.

Consumer behavior and shopping tips

Understanding consumer behavior on Black Friday is key to making the most of this shopping holiday. Shoppers often strategize and plan their purchases to maximize savings. Here are some insights and tips for a successful Black Friday shopping experience:

1. Create a shopping list

Plan ahead by creating a shopping list of the items you want to purchase. This helps you stay focused and avoid impulse buying.

2. Set a budget

Determine how much you’re willing to spend on Black Friday. Having a budget in mind ensures you don’t overspend.

3. Compare prices

Before making a purchase, compare prices across different retailers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

4. Stay safe and informed

Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re shopping in-store. Keep an eye on your belongings and stay informed about the latest deals and offers.


Black Friday, a day once known for incredible in-store sales, has evolved into a multi-day shopping extravaganza that encompasses both in-store and online deals. Shoppers can find substantial discounts on a wide range of products, making it an excellent time to complete their holiday shopping. The impact of Black Friday on the economy and the retail industry is substantial, and it continues to influence consumer behavior and spending habits.

Frequently asked questions

What are some tips for safe in-store shopping on Black Friday?

Safe in-store shopping on Black Friday involves being aware of your surroundings, securing your belongings, and following health and safety guidelines. Avoid overcrowded areas and maintain social distancing, and consider shopping at less busy times of the day.

How do small businesses benefit from Black Friday?

Small businesses benefit from Black Friday through initiatives like Small Business Saturday, which encourages consumers to shop locally. This boost in sales during the holiday season often plays a crucial role in their yearly revenue.

What are some strategies for finding the best Black Friday deals?

To find the best Black Friday deals, consider creating a shopping list, setting a budget, comparing prices across different retailers, and staying informed about promotions and offers. Early access and pre-Black Friday sales can also provide a competitive advantage.

What’s the evolution of online shopping during Black Friday?

Online shopping during Black Friday has evolved significantly. It has led to the creation of Cyber Monday, where consumers can access exclusive web-only deals. This transition to e-commerce has made Black Friday accessible and convenient for online shoppers.

What’s the significance of Black Friday to the economy?

Black Friday is significant to the economy as it serves as a measure of consumer confidence and discretionary spending. The money spent by consumers during this shopping event is closely monitored by economists to gauge the overall health of the retail industry and the economy.

Why did Black Friday overtake Cyber Monday in sales?

Black Friday overtook Cyber Monday in sales due to increasingly attractive in-store and online deals. Retailers started offering deep discounts, extended sales periods, and early access promotions. This made Black Friday a more appealing shopping event for consumers, leading to its prominence in sales.

Key Takeaways

  • Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and is known for significant discounts both in-store and online.
  • Consumer behavior on Black Friday includes strategic planning, budgeting, and price comparison to maximize savings.
  • Online shopping on Black Friday has given rise to Cyber Monday, with exclusive web-only deals, and Black Friday has overtaken Cyber Monday in terms of sales since 2019.
  • Small businesses also benefit from Black Friday, particularly through Small Business Saturday, which encourages local shopping and supports communities.
  • The economic significance of Black Friday lies in its role as a measure of consumer confidence and discretionary spending, impacting the overall health of the retail industry and the economy.
View Article Sources
  1. Black Friday: November 25, 2022 –
  2. Holiday Shopping: Black Friday –
  3. Black Friday Sales – Competition and Markets Authority – GOV