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Black Friday or Cyber Monday: Which Is the Best Day to Shop?

The signs point to Cyber Monday.

A sign that reads "Why Are You Window Shopping? Sale Inside" Photo:  Jamin Well/Getty Images

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Black Friday — what was once the be-all, end-all day for holiday shopping — has been sharing the spotlight with Cyber Monday for a few years now. But, as we’ve learned, Black Friday is becoming less and less about doorbuster deals and more about sales you can shop online throughout the day, which was the whole point of Cyber Monday.

So, which is the best day? Unfortunately, there’s really no definitive way to answer that, because it depends on what you’re looking for, what your budget is, and how you like to shop. Someone looking for a really great sweater is probably going to have a different strategy than someone looking for a really big TV. But taking a few key factors into consideration, it seems like Cyber Monday might be the way to go, particularly for clothing and beauty.

“The best deals on Black Friday are typically those toys and tools and headphones,” says Tom Caporaso, the CEO of Clarus Commerce. “And then, when you rotate into Cyber Monday, the clothing and the beauty items, and laptops and more tech stuff, get a lot of promotion.”

That’s not to say that apparel brands aren’t still betting on Black Friday. They definitely are, and there are a lot of great sales to prove it. But the one advantage Cyber Monday has over Black Friday is time. Black Friday sales typically start before Black Friday (like, on Tuesday) and run through Sunday evening, and then the new deals kick off on Monday if a retailer is offering different promotions.

While some stores will keep the same deals running for the entire shebang, a good amount of them will switch it up, largely because they’ve had a few days to figure out what works.

“More and more, you’re seeing a tremendous move to e-commerce and mobile commerce,” says Caporaso. He explains that “the smart and savvy retailers are using the data they’re getting on their promotions, and keeping the promotions up that are working, and taking the ones that aren’t down and replacing them with newer or different promotions.”

It’s sort of like how any sale works, really: The discounts get steeper and steeper as the sale progresses. The goal is to clear inventory and make some money back, and if that’s not happening, it’s time to course correct. But that wasn’t really as possible — or as efficient — before Black Friday moved online. Caporaso adds, “With e-commerce and mobile commerce, you know in real time what’s working, what clicks, and what’s turning into a sale.”

But of course, when you wait for a better deal, you run the risk of something selling out. If you need it, maybe just buy it right away and enjoy your weekend.


Watch: The History of Black Friday