Houston Matters

Is Black Friday shopping becoming obsolete? An expert weighs in

With the increase of online shopping, many stores may begin combining their holiday sales.

Black Friday shoppers walk through Macy's in Herald Square on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in New York.
AP Photo/Anne D'Innocenzio
Black Friday shoppers walk through Macy’s in Herald Square on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in New York.

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Holiday shopping is officially in full effect. Cyber Monday, the day when retailers step up online promotions for buyers, kicked off the first day back to work for many after the Thanksgiving holiday. The day usually follows Black Friday, the day where many stores open as early as 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and offer discounts on hot ticket items.

Black Friday was frequently known for its significant discounts, crowds that could get dangerous, and tradition of late-night shopping. But do Black Friday and Cyber Monday still carry the urgency they once had? Barbara Stewart, chair of the Department of Human Development and Consumer Sciences at the University of Houston, thinks so. She joined Houston Matters on Monday.

“They are both traditions and economic necessities. Many retailers make as much as 30% of their revenue for the year in the shopping period,” Stewart said.

The hype of Black Friday can be good in terms of promotion, Stewart said, but in terms of actual sales, if a customer is waiting in line, they are not opening their wallet at the time.

“The more a retailer can lengthen a selling period, the more advantageous to their revenues,” she said.

Some companies began opening their sales weeks in advance of Black Friday.

“40% of shoppers started their holiday shopping in October,” Stewart said. “It doesn’t always mean that they’re through shopping; it means that they’ve begun.”

Now many sales have combined, and many shoppers buy online. On Thanksgiving Day, 14% more shoppers were shopping online than last year, she said.

With shopping online becoming more popular, major discount days will likely become less well-defined.

“60% of the increase in holiday sales come from online,” she said. “But we also have to temper that with realizing that about 70% of all retail buying are in-store purchases.”