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Shopping Deals and Discounts

Cyber Monday vs Black Friday sales: Which day's discounts are better for holiday shoppers?

Shoppers wait to cash out in a line that stretches down the aisle at Best Buy on Friday morning, Nov. 29, 2002. The store opened their doors at 6 a.m.

What used to be the two biggest shopping days of the holiday season still draw deal seekers but have lost the top spot to online shoppers looking for early deals. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape for retailers and shopping habits for consumers. Retailers began pulling back on opening on Thanksgiving or having the early-morning Black Friday door-buster sales as interest in person waned. 

“ and are still big shopping days − there will be plenty of deals. ... However, of late, consumer interest has been dwindling,” Rajesh Bagchi, a professor of marketing at the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech told ӣƵ. 

Still, Black Friday remains a popular day for shoppers to shop in a store. Last year, 73 million shoppers went to a brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday, up from 66.5 million in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation. 

This year, the trade organization for the retail industry says an estimated 182 million people are planning to shop in store or online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to an annual survey. That’s up 15.7 million people from last year and the highest estimate since the organization began tracking the data in 2017. 

Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday the same? 

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, represents the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, with many retailers offering heavy discounts. 

Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend, emerged as an online alternative to Black Friday, which typically attracted large crowds into brick-and-mortar stores. 

Over time, however, retailers have blended Black Friday and Cyber Monday, offering deals both in-store and online, and have started rolling out discounts earlier. This year, Black Friday sales started as far back as October. 

“These two days still attract a high volume of sales. However, the relative spike in sales on these two days is not as pronounced as in the past,” said Denish Shah, a marketing professor at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. Among his specialties is marketing strategy. 

“Retailers are increasingly starting the sales and deep promotions much earlier,” he said. 

Is it better to buy during Black Friday or Cyber Monday? 

There will be deals both on Black Friday and and retailers have started rolling out deals early, including Amazon launching its “Black Friday” deals the Friday before, said David Kender, editor-in-chief of , a product review website and part of the ӣƵ Network.

Walmart is offering exclusive online deals to members days before the deals will show up in the store, said Kender. 

“It is not concentrated on that one 24-hour period on Black Friday and that 24-hour period of Cyber Monday. It is spread out a little bit,” Kender said. 

While there will be deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “not all products are deeply discounted,” said Bagchi. “Retailers rely on increasing traffic to their store and hope that consumers will end up buying some of the other not-so-highly discounted products. Now, if there is less interest among consumers, then you will also be able to find better deals.” 

How did Black Friday get its name?

While many theories have circulated about the origin of Black Friday's name, including a popular one that it is the day stores earn a profit or go "into the black" after a loss throughout the year, Black Friday's name dates back to the 1950s, according to Britannica.

It was used by police in Philadelphia to describe the chaos that often took place in the city the day after Thanksgiving. Many people from the suburbs would come to Philadelphia to do their holiday shopping. That would bring large crowds, traffic, accidents, shoplifting and other issues, causing officers to work extra hours.

By 1961, the name Black Friday stuck and became more popularized in the 1980s.

Shoppers at Nordstrom at Mayfair Mall on Black Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

Why have retailers moved to both online and in-store sales? 

Traditionally, 40% of retail sales occurred in November and December, but trends have changed, said Bagchi, who studies consumer behavior. 

“Now consumers have many different opportunities to purchase products at discounted rates. For example, in 2015 Amazon started offering deeply discounted products on Prime Day, which is in July. In order to compete with Amazon, others started offering deeply discounted products too -- so instead of waiting all the way until November, retailers started offering some of their better deals in July,” he said. 

Amazon introduced another major deal day in October, which forced other competitors to offer deals as well, said Bagchi. 

Shah said retailers don’t want to miss out on potential sales. 

“The FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) on deals from the standpoint of consumers during Black Friday sales has now shifted to retailers who fear missing out on the consumers if they don’t start their promotions early enough,” he said. 

That includes traditional retailers, who had to realize the hard way that the only way to combat stiff competition from exclusively online retailers like Amazon “is to take the battle to their turf. That is, make a bigger shift to offering deals and sales promotions online,” said Shah.

Paula Byrd, of Dunn, N.C., browses through the dress-up clothes at Toys "R" Us Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2005, as she stays close to her over-flowing shopping cart of gifts for her three children.

Can I still get a deal if I want to go in person to a store on Black Friday? 

Customers can still expect to see a large number of deals, said Shah, but a good proportion of them may also be available on the retailer’s website.  

“There is a good chance of seeing some exclusive in-store deals. My observation has been that the proportion of exclusive in-store deals has declined over the years,” he said. “Given the shift to online buying, the number of people queuing up in the early morning hours of Black Friday is also significantly reducing. In-store stampedes (with shoppers jostling one another to grab products) on Black Friday morning are going to become a thing of the past.” 

When can I shop deals at Walmart, Target and Amazon for Black Friday? 

is promoting its Black Friday deals, which will begin online on Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. EST (and at noon EST for Walmart Plus members) and then in stores on Black Friday, Nov. 24 at 6 a.m. local time.

started early Black Friday deals and was launching its Black Friday deals on Nov. 19. 

(also started its Black Friday deals early on Nov. 17, a week before Black Friday. 

Should I wait until Cyber Monday to buy a laptop? 

The experts had slightly different views on this question. 

Shah said you don’t necessarily need to wait.  

“Retail promotions from recent years indicate that the best deals for a wide variety of products don’t necessarily fall on these two days. Therefore, grab a deal early if you see something good,” he said. Customers can always return a product or ask for a price adjustment. 

For some categories, like cameras and kitchen appliances, Cyber Monday may offer better deals, said Bagchi. 

“It is a bit risky to wait until Cyber Monday to do the bulk of your shopping. You may miss out on great sales if you wait all the way until Monday,” he said.  

Kender said there’s not a tremendous amount of distinction in terms of levels of discounts for particular lines of items as there have been in years past. There may be some good electronic deals on Cyber Monday, but it won’t be as pronounced as other years, he said. 

In the mood for holiday shopping?Beware, this year more stores are closed on Thanksgiving

Are inventory or supply chain issues expected this year? 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers suffered from supply-chain issues, which affected holiday shopping and availability of goods. While geopolitical tensions persist, Shah said, inventory/supply chain issues or worries have eased this year. Most retailers are experiencing a fairly stabilized supply chain, close to pre-pandemic levels, he said. 

With that said, there’s still always a chance product inventory runs out quickly for deals, so keep that in mind, Shah said. 

Black Friday shopping deals have startedHere's what you need to know.

Kender advises looking online to check inventory levels at a store if you’re going in person. Sometimes the inventory listed, particularly if it is in single digits, are not accurate to what is actually available at the store, he said. 

What other tools are retailers using to increase sales this year? 

Consumers increasingly want “instant gratification” or want the product “now,” said Shah. Retailers who offer one-day or same-day delivery will likely be preferred by consumers over others, he said. Big-box retailers can combat this by offering order-online and pickup in store options. 

“Fast fulfillment is becoming as crucial as deals/promotions for sales,” he said. 

Consumers have also gotten smarter at finding and acting on good deals, Shah said.

“They are willing to spend more if they see a good deal. However, they have finite budgets and limited cash reserves or credit spending. Retailers can address this by offering buy-now-pay-later options. Last year, we saw the most significant jump in consumers exercising this option,” he said. 

Betty Lin-Fisher is a consumer reporter for ӣƵ. Reach her at blinfisher@ӣƵTODAY.com or follow her on X, Facebook or Instagram @blinfisher.

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