Why Black Friday started early, Cyber Monday ‘is going to be big’ and major retailers will be closed on Thanksgiving

Blurred photo of a person walking with white overlaid text that says 'Black Friday Sale'.
AP Photo by Gareth Fuller

When it comes to hunting down Black Friday holiday deals, shoppers can set their alarm clocks early on Nov. 24 — or start looking now.

National retailers including Macy’s, T.J. Maxx, Target, Lowes and Home Depot will open their doors at their brick-and-mortar stores as early as 5 or 6 a.m. for Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving.

But even as the retailers attempt to revive the holiday shopping tradition that took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been hedging their bets by advertising Black Friday deals as early as October.

“They’re stretching out (the holiday sales season) by starting early,” rather than relying on the excitement of a one-day shopping extravaganza the day after Thanksgiving, says Yakov Bart, Northeastern associate professor of marketing.

Best Buy and Amazon already are offering Black Friday deals, and Target started advertising Black Friday deals before Halloween, on Oct. 29, in stores and online, with sales running through Thanksgiving weekend.

Bart says retail stores are putting different items on sale at different times to drive people to their website and their physical stores multiple times over the course of the holiday season.

Headshot of Yakov Bart.
Yakov Bart Associate Professor, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, says starting Black Friday early is a post-COVID marketing strategy. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“Retail has switched to running promotions for longer periods of time,” he says. 

“It allows them to bring shoppers into the stores more often,” Bart says.

Even if items on sale are sold out, shoppers who have gone to the time and expense of traveling to the store may buy something else, he says, “which creates profits for retailers.”

The Black Friday shopping tradition took a hit during COVID-19, when many shoppers chose to avoid crowds or used curbside pickup services.

Black Friday crowds last year were smaller than the pre-pandemic masses of people who often waited all night for stores to open, Bart says. 

Retailers aren’t sure exactly what to expect from Black Friday this year, he says. 

Closed on Thanksgiving Day

One thing shoppers can expect is that fewer of their favorite stores will be open Thanksgiving night and midnight shopping hours are becoming a thing of the past.

When Black Friday started taking hold in the 1980s, shoppers waited until just before dawn to line up for doors to open. But over the years, openings got earlier and earlier, with some stores opening as early as midnight or even creeping into Thanksgiving Day itself.

COVID-19 either set the clock back or controlled the madness by inducing national retailers to give their employees the holiday off in 2020. 

It’s a new Black Friday tradition that is starting to stick as an increasing number of national chains — Walmart, Home Depot, Target and Costco — have announced their stores will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Target CEO Brian Cornell announced this month that feedback from employees fueled the company’s decision to give employees a break to be with their families during the busiest retail season of the year.

“Retail teams tend to see the holidays as an energizing part of what we do. I know I and many others have happy memories of holidays spent in stores with our work families —  and that sense of connectedness is something we definitely cultivate for our team,” Cornell said.

“But we also know there’s no substitute for the real thing, especially on a family-centered holiday like Thanksgiving. Which is why it’s good to see other retailers coming around to the approach we’ve been following for years.”

And while retail giant Walmart and chains including Kohls and GameStop will open their doors at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, Costco and Sam’s Club won’t open until 10 a.m.

Are Black Friday deals for real?

Black Friday discounts are real and can be quite steep, especially for electronic items stores want to move quickly, such as older models of smartphones, headphones and TVs, Bart says.

CNET, the technology and product review website, says shoppers should add Keurigs, Roombas and Apple products to the list of Black Friday deals, with many available now. 

CNET publishes up-to-date guides on current sales. Consumer Reports also writes up what it considers the best early Black Friday deals of 2023.

And for those who won’t be able to get much shopping done until after Thanksgiving, there is always Cyber Monday, which many retailers are stretching into a two-day event this year.

“Cyber Monday is going to be big, most likely as big as it was in the past,” Bart says.

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at c.hibbert@northeastern.edu or contact her on X/Twitter @HibbertCynthia.