Black Friday used to fall on one day of the year. Shoppers would camp outside of stores, eagerly awaiting the chance to bust down some doors and save a ton of cash. Times have changed. The past couple of years have been anything but normal. Stores are offering more deals than ever online, and we shouldn’t need to remind you that thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, you ought to avoid unnecessary trips to the store. The same pandemic has contributed to supply chain hurdles that mean shopping early for holiday gifts is key.
Black Friday has crept into a full month of sales that ebb and flow. It can all get overwhelming. How can you tell if a deal is worth your time and money? When do sales start and end? Do you really need that gadget? We’re here to help with a handy FAQ.
Updated November 2021: We’ve refreshed this guide with new advice for this Black Friday.
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What will Black Friday look like in the pandemic?
The shopping events of 2020 and 2021 are largely similar; stock is limited, and orders are placed mostly online. Many types of products have faced shortages this year, so we aren’t expecting blow-out price drops on things like gaming consoles and laptops; rather, finding them in stock and not price-gouged is kind of a small miracle itself. Early Black Friday deals, so far, have been decent, but the inventory is the tricky bit. The WIRED Gear team will be on the hunt for deals that are actually good, and you can follow the advice listed below to make a more informed decision.
Wait, when is Black Friday?
This year, Black Friday falls on November 26. That’s nearly the latest that Black Friday can fall in a calendar year, which means there’s less time between Black Friday and Christmas than in some previous years. You’ll have less time to get your shopping done.
When do Black Friday sales start?
Early deals typically begin a week or two before Black Friday arrives. This year, thanks to all of the shipping delays, they’re starting already.
Most of the official sales start on Thanksgiving, though some specific deals and doorbusters may start on Friday, usually at midnight. A handful of stores detail exact start times, while others just give a planned day. I (Louryn) have been Black Friday shopping for more than 16 years, and I recommend staying up late the day before Thanksgiving to check for online sales starting around midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 24. WIRED will also cover major sales later in the day on Thanksgiving.
Can you get Black Friday deals online?
You can—and should. We exclusively cover online deals here at WIRED because the majority of Black Friday deals are available on the web. The best deals don’t stick around for too long, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to your favorite store’s sale pages (and our coverage).
Making a list of what you want to buy ahead of time can help you keep a clear head when it’s time to start shopping. And, to reiterate, you should not be shopping in stores right now unless it’s essential. You also shouldn’t buy things just to buy them. Everyone’s on a tighter budget these days; sales will happen again. Shipping times will eventually go back to normal. Take a deep breath and don’t get sucked into the shopping spree frenzy.
What retailers will have Black Friday deals?
Nearly all of them. There are the obvious stores, like Walmart and Best Buy, but chances are every retailer will have some sort of sale whether they offer clothing, shoes, books, health and beauty items, fitness specialty goods, or something else. There might even be promotions going on at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant. When in doubt, visit a retailer’s website. Usually, Black Friday sales are highlighted loud and proud on the homepage.
Here are a few Black Friday sales pages from major retailers: