Black Friday is one of the most important weekends for retailers and consumers in America. Many experts watch the Black Friday sales figures carefully as an economic indicator and predictor of the success of various retailers. Beginning in the 1960’s in Philadelphia, the police and other authorities started referring to this day as Black Friday because they dreaded the huge crowds and traffic tie-ups occasioned by Christmas shoppers. However, the name has changed positively, and now reflects a good meaning—the day that retailers are “in the black,” or showing a profit, for the year.

Stores have been quick to take advantage of the large crowds and willing-to-spend shoppers getting a jump on the Christmas rush. Many retailers, both chains and locally-owned stores, take advantage of the day by advertising huge discounts, and to cut down on the crows, some of the best deals are offered at very early hours on Friday morning—some as early as midnight!

Black Friday 2018

In 2018 some of the biggest retailers advertised very early shopping hours with discounts up till a certain time. This was to encourage shoppers to get to the store early; it also helps the stores project how much stock they will sell in the course of the day that has become known as the “biggest shopping day of the year,” and the weekend after.

Are stores open on Thanksgiving Day?

A few large retailers actually started the day before Black Friday, on Thanksgiving Day itself. CVS, a national retail drug store, was open on Thanksgiving and offered deep discounts on many items. Because CVS stocks far more than drugs and nostrums, including books, jewelry, perfume, and some accessory items such as handbags, thrifty shoppers could venture out after the turkey dinner and pick up some good discounts.

Kmart, one of the largest discount retailers and a partner with Sears, also stayed open on Thanksgiving and offered special deals all day long. Toys R Us, the huge children’s toy retailer, also opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, with savings stretching through 10 p.m. the following night—a full twenty-four hours of Black Friday shopping!

Most stores, however, stuck with the traditional Black Friday date (which was November 26 in 2010). Opening earliest were Old Navy, the Gap Outlet stores, and Tommy Hilfiger, both of which target young clothing markets. These stores opened their doors at midnight—truly the earliest possible Black Friday openings! Kohl’s, a national retail clothing chain, which opened its doors at 3:00 a.m., was not far behind.

When do most stores open on Black Friday?

Most stores open at a more “reasonable” hours than the strike of midnight. 4:00 a.m. was a popular choice, with Belk, HHgregg, JC Penney, Macy’s, and Target all opening at this hour. Many stores chose 5:00 a.m. as their opening time, including Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Modell’s, Radio Shack (5:30 a.m.), Sam’s Club, and WalMart.

Later openers included Bass Pro Shop, Big Lots, Lowe’s, PepBoys, Staples, and Tractor Supply, all opening at 6 a.m. Sears held its doors closed until 7 a.m., along with a few others, although this was probably the latest opening time for any major retailers.

What these “crazy” hours do not take into account, however, is the surge in online shopping. All of the major retailers have an online presence, and some—such as Amazon—are wholly online, without any “bricks and mortar” store locations. Online Black Friday deals are not limited by employee needs and possible local restrictions on opening hours. Online retailers tend to have Black Friday sales all through the week of Thanksgiving, hitting especially hard on Thanksgiving day itself and the weekend after. The terms “Cyber Thursday” and “Cyber Monday” have crept into common usage, just as “Black Friday” itself did years before.

Online stores, of course, are mostly automated. Therefore, you can shop there any time you like, and many people seem to be doing just that. The number of shoppers who shopped online in addition to or instead of treading the aisles on Black Friday increased by 26% in a single year, with more predicted to follow this year. Many people feel it is just easier to pay a relatively nominal shipping fee and skip the visual inspection than to battle the huge Black Friday crowds. More and more shoppers seem to prefer ordering online and relaxing at home over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Whether you shop online or at the physical store, Black Friday discounts are well-advertised in advance of the sales. Check with your local store to be sure of opening hours for individual locations. You can also sign up for emails at the stores’ websites, which allow you to plan your Black Friday shopping before the big day.