When is Black Friday 2020? It's not a trick question. Yes, Black Friday always falls on the day after Thanksgiving. So Black Friday is November 27 this year. But "Black Friday" as a concept — the frenzy of holiday deals that triggers shoppers to buy cheap TVs, the season's "hot" toys, and more — starts much earlier, and lasts way longer than a single day.
In the very strange year that is 2020, shoppers can expect to see Black Friday-style deals popping up for more than (yikes) two months. And with the extra-long season for promotions, trying to figure out which "deals" do, in fact, feature the lowest prices will be more complicated than ever.
Retail experts say that the holiday deals season kicks off in October this year. If you're looking for a specific start date, you can't do much better than October 13, the rescheduled launch of Amazon Prime Day 2020, which was postponed from July because of the coronavirus pandemic. And now that the frenzy of holiday sales and promotions is here, it probably won't let up until the start of 2021.
It's not just Amazon unleashing deals early. Target announced in July that it would launch major sales starting in October, partly to avoid attracting huge crowds into stores on any particular day, and the retailer began hosting a two-day "Deals Day" sale to coincide with Amazon's Prime Day event. Walmart and Home Depot are among the other big retail chains saying their holiday deals will start earlier than ever. Sure enough, Walmart is also having a major sale overlapping with Prime Day this year, and the company announced that its "Black Friday" sales would be spread out over three days, beginning online on November 4. "Black Friday isn’t just one day this year — it’s months long," explained a Best Buy press release, sent out to coincide with a huge launch of deals on October 29.
Shoppers, who are simultaneously scarred by the retail shutdown in early 2020 and extra eager to save money given the worrisome economy and an unemployment crisis, largely seem game to scoop up deals wherever and whenever they appear. They especially like the idea of snagging deals early, and doing most of their shopping online, in order to stay healthy and skip the stress of crowded malls.
In a Morning Consult survey, 35% of consumers said they'll be shopping less in malls this year, and nearly half said they'll do most of their holiday shopping online. According to research from Google, 75% of American shoppers say they will be making more online holiday purchases this year compared to previous seasons, and 70% said they intend to shop earlier to avoid crowds.
The gist is that, depending on how you look at it, "Black Friday" is either dead or it's just bigger and more spread out than ever. For shoppers hoping to save, there are some more important debates they want settled. Namely, when will stores have the best deals? And will Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or some random other day have the lowest prices?
These are difficult questions to answer with any certainty in a normal year. Retailers like to toss in curveballs and surprises regarding when they'll drop their best deals and how low prices will go, and there's always some unpredictability in terms of what toys and gifts will suddenly surge to the top of consumer wish lists. Forecasting the flow of holiday sales and promotions given the unprecedented state of affairs in 2020 comes with an entire new set of complications.
All that said, shoppers are pretty much guaranteed to see great discounts, nonstop and in huge quantity, throughout the extra-long holiday season. For example, on October 15, the day after Amazon Prime Day ended, Amazon jumped right into a new round of promotions dubbed as "Holiday Dash" deals.
Here's more that you can expect on the major shopping events in the weeks ahead, according to deals experts.
Best Deals: Prime Day or Black Friday?
The true, if unsatisfying, answer is that no single shopping day has the best deals on everything. Even when a particular day is known for deep discounts on a particular category of goods — amazing Amazon device deals on Prime Day, for example — shoppers will sometimes see the same or better offers on other days.
Retailers throw wave after wave of promotions and surprises at shoppers, with the goal of keeping customers on their toes so their curiosity and desire for deals draws them back over and over again. And whether you love or hate the game, that's basically what you have to do if you're trying to score the truly lowest prices possible.
To play the game well, it obviously helps if you can tell a genuinely excellent deal apart from a mediocre one (and there are lots of mediocre ones). One way to do this is by using a price-tracking site like CamelCamelCamel and Keepa, which show you the ups and downs of how much a product cost at Amazon over the past year. You can also look back at roundups of the best deals on previous Prime Days, Black Fridays, and Cyber Mondays for the sake of comparison.
As for whether Prime Day or Black Friday will have the best deals overall this year, there is no absolute consensus among deals expert predictions. That said, the deals and coupon site RetailMeNot surveyed retailers in August, and there's good indication that prices on Prime Day will be very competitive.
“According to our research, retailers are significantly more likely than they were in 2019 (46% vs. 38%) to say they will offer their deepest discounts during Amazon Prime Day rather than Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend,” said Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot's resident shopping and trends expert.
However, Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, anticipates that shoppers will see lower prices on many items later in the season. "It'll vary depending on what you're shopping for, but in most cases Black Friday and Cyber Monday both will be better than Prime Day," she says.
Best Deals on Amazon Prime Day
Prime Day was created in 2015 as a way to simultaneously pump up sales in the summer and promote the Amazon Prime subscription service. (Most Prime Day deals are only available to members, who pay $12.99 a month or $119 a year after a 30-day free trial.)
The entire event was invented by Amazon, so it makes sense that the company's house brands feature heavily in the promotions. Specifically, there are always great Amazon device deals on Prime Day. "You can expect to find better deals on the Amazon suite of products like the Echo, Fire TV and Kindles on Prime Day" rather than Black Friday or Cyber Monday, says RetailMeNot's Skirboll. "This is Amazon’s major moment to sell their in-house brands, and they’re going to offer great discounts to do so."
DealNews's Ramhold pointed out that Amazon's pre-Prime Day deal on Echo Dot smart speakers — two for $40, down from $50 apiece normally — was an excellent price, and that shoppers should continue to look forward to more outstanding Prime Day deals on older Amazon devices. AmazonBasics, the company's low-price generic brand that offers everything from batteries to luggage, should see significant markdowns too. Ramhold says she expects "to see a 30% discount across the board for Prime Day" on AmazonBasics items, including an assortment of office supplies, charging cables, backpacks, blankets, kitchen knives, pet beds, and more.
Look for good deals on top kitchen brands and basic supplies in general on Prime Day as well. "Prime Day is often a really great time to buy kitchen items, whether it's basic things like a 45-piece flatware set for $21, a silverware tray for $7, or a roasting pan for $18," says Ramhold.
Now that Amazon Prime Day 2020 has arrived, here is our roundup of the best deals. As you can see, there ar eplenty of good deals on kitchen items and Amazon devices, while the sales on TVs are limited and fairly underwhelming.
Best Deals on Black Friday
Because of the pandemic, most stores will stay closed on Thanksgiving this year, and Black Friday deals in general will shift especially sharply online. (The idea, hopefully, is that there will be no crazy crowds battling for the limited supply of ultra-cheap TVs at Best Buy or Walmart.) But Black Friday is still expected to have the season's lowest prices on items shoppers are usually excited to scoop up that day, including Android phones, tools, home goods, and, yes, TVs.
"Hands down we're expecting to see the best deals of the year on TVs during Black Friday," says DealNews's Ramhold. "While we'll see super cheap promotions, like 32" displays for $89, we're also expecting to see bigger screens at unbeatable prices. Last year we saw an LG 75" smart TV for only $729 and it was bundled with a $100 gift card."
Bear in mind, though, that the term "Black Friday" is being used very loosely in 2020. Many Black Friday sales are going live in early November, if not even earlier.
Best Deals on Cyber Monday
In the past, Cyber Monday has been heavy on electronics deals, with big discounts on TVs, laptops, and iPads. Target has historically had a massive online sale on Cyber Monday (often starting on the Sunday before), including 15% off everything one year. Cyber Monday also traditionally been a great day to shop for toys, clothing, and fashion; one of the day's staples is apparel retailers offering site-wide sales, with everything discounted by 40% to 60%.
For Cyber Monday 2020, shoppers should look forward to great deals in all of these categories and more. RetailMeNot expects "the majority of fashion brands to put forth their strongest offers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend,” Skirboll says.
As for electronics, DealNews's Ramhold anticipates especially low prices on things like speakers and laptops. (The latter would be very welcome, seeing as there's been a laptop shortage and unusually high prices even for basic Chromebooks.)
Toys will be on sale in great abundance too. "There will be tons of toy deals during Black Friday season, but we should see the most deals on Cyber Monday," says Ramhold. "In addition to individual deals like LEGO sets for as little as $6, we'll also see sales such as buy two, get a third free promotions on select NERF toys, board games for as little as $5, and LEGO sets for up to 30% off at stores like Kohl's, Target, and LEGO itself."
Perhaps we'll even see some Cyber Monday sales for what will undoubtedly be one of the season's hottest gifts — Baby Yoda dolls. But you may not want to wait that long: It could be just as likely that some Baby Yoda toys are already sold out by then.