The creep of Black Friday is happening - retailers are starting to shape offers in anticipation of the big sale period, and even crafting slightly different Cyber Monday deals in order to keep the party rollin'.
That doesn't mean that things will kick off on Friday November 29 (which, as you might have guessed, is Black Friday thanks to it being the day after Thanksgiving as ever) as many retailers are now seeing the benefit of launching early deals.
Going a bit sooner can help the rush online - meaning that users won't overload retailers' sites with hundreds of orders in one day, and sending out million of items can be spread slightly more easily through a creaking postal system.
That means it's no longer just a set of Black Friday deals, but really a month of the offers and this year will head into December too.
Black Friday was a large success in 2018, with big growth year on year in the US: $3.7 billion on Thanksgiving itself, and $6.2 billion on Black Friday, according to Adobe Analytics via Business Wire. Saturday and Sunday saw another $6.4 billion come in… and that’s just what was spent online.
In terms of retailers, as usual we're thinking that Walmart's Black Friday deals will rival those Black Friday Best Buy offers, with Amazon taking up a lesser role as it focuses on Prime Day 2020 already - the latter retailer boasted this year that its July sales actually eclipsed those from Black Friday last year, so there's a good chance that the Amazon Black Friday sales won't be as bold in 2019.
When is Black Friday 2019? And what is it?
Black Friday is the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving when retailers begin the holiday shopping season. It’s based around the aforementioned “doorbusters”, discounts so impressive that bargain-crazed customers will try to break the doors down before the shop opens - although that’s more of a virtual craze these days.
The actual date shifts every year, by the day of the week stays the same: it's always the Friday after Thanksgiving, and this year it's later in the month of November.
The official Black Friday date is November 29, 2019, meaning it's closer to Christmas (less than a month before Christmas Day), and that gives you less time to shop online.
That may not seem like a big deal today, but you'll have to factor in waiting on the best deals, pouncing on the lowest price, and factoring shipping wait times.
As we've highlighted, Black Friday weekend isn't just a four-day affair, and deals don't necessarily follow the normal pattern of prime products to be unleashed - you can see new TV deals in the small hours of the morning or a brilliant wearable price slash just after the Thanksgiving turkey is prepped, so shoppers need to be more flexible than ever.
What’s the origin of Black Friday?
Let’s take a Black Friday history lesson: the first known mention of Black Friday related to this shopping experience was in November 1951, when the journal Factory Management and Maintenance used it to describe people calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving so they could have an extra day off work.
At the same time US police were using the phrases “Black Friday” and “Black Saturday” to describe the horrendous traffic that occurred at the beginning of the pre-Christmas shopping season. In 1961 there was a movement from the local government to change the shopping season to “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday”, but it clearly never caught on.
Will Trump's Chinese trade tariffs affect Black Friday?
There's a real possible fly in the ointment of Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year: trade tariffs raising the price of some goods that traditionally are subject to great deals.
If you've missed it, the US-China trade war has led to the Trump administration levying tariffs on Chinese imports, with the first of these coming in at the start of September.
Sadly for those looking for a bargain on consumer electronics, this could have a real effect on things like Bluetooth speakers and possibly even high end wearables, with the extra cost being passed on to consumers.
Financial analysis from JPMorgan suggests this could hit the wallet of the US consumer to the tune of $1,000 - and see fewer discounts on Black Friday as a result this year.
However, it's not all bad news. Tariffs on popular Christmas items like laptops, smartphones, toys and clothing won't be hit with an additional cost until mid-December - so Black Friday or Cyber Monday remain a great time to pick up one of those.
Black Friday ads: when will we see them?
Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and Target have a habit of stretching the saving across multiple days preceding the classic four-day window, posting Black Friday ad leaks in October and early November. Trust us when we say we'll be monitoring the Black Friday ads hard this year, and giving you all the information as they drop.
The first signs of price drops come from these ad leaks, usually through major US newspaper print outs. Black Friday ad scans make their way online, giving you a heads-up on what to buy, how much to spend and where to shop.
This means Black Friday is more than just a one-day sales frenzy, or even an extended weekend tradition. It's a whole month of savings, if you know where to shop and when to hit that checkout button. If you’re savvy, it's the best time of the year to shop, and you can save a lot of money.
Where will we see the best Black Friday deals?
One thing we’ve noticed over the years: in many cases the available discounts changed as the month progressed: headline-grabbing stuff aside, the best value deals tended to appear later in the month on more expensive products where retailers could still make a profit while knocking a hefty amount off the price.
That’s partly due to upselling and cross-selling opportunities too: many firms hope if you buy something expensive for a bargain price, you’ll then buy some accessories to go with it.
But what technology should you be looking out for? These are our top predictions for what desirable gadgets you’ll be able to get for less.
2019 iPads and iPhone XR (2?)
The last couple of years we’ve seen decent discounts on the ‘new iPad’ (the non-Pro model), with 2018’s version getting insane price drops to just $249 and even $229, for a cool $100 off. It was so good that our Mobile Editor in the US instantly bought two for his parents.
We’re expecting Apple to bring out a new iPad for 2019, as well as an iPad Mini 5, and we’re expecting both of those to get some good price cuts by November. Even if they don’t, 2018’s model will be even cheaper and will be primed for a lower cost.
Note that this isn’t from Apple, but the retailers themselves - Apple only usually offers extra gift cards when you buy expensive gadgets from it, so it pays to know where to shop.
The iPhone XR was one of the biggest sellers in 2018 as well, with discounts appearing instantly on contract even though it was a newer phone. This year we expect the iPhone XR sequel to come out a little earlier, which means it’s even more likely to be part of the Black Friday sales this year.
Sticking with the Apple theme, we’re very much expecting retailers to realize that there’s a lot of money to be made from discounting Apple’s wireless headphones - they were among the most searched-for items on Black Friday last year, and if Apple launches the Apple AirPods 2 this year, the older, first-gen AirPods are going to be in high demand.
Amazon Prime Day saw the headphones slashed to $144.99 (without the wireless charging case) - it actually saw one of our writers find a way to save even more by choosing slower delivery too.
Samsung Galaxy S9
As with iPhones, so with Galaxies: not just the S10 but the new Note too. We saw low-cost up-front deals with very little to pay per month for the Galaxy S9 and siblings - which was impressive for these well-reviewed phones - and we’re expecting to see the same this year for the Galaxy S10 and its siblings. If your contract is up for renewal around then, it’s worth waiting for Black Friday. Even full retail prices dropped below $600 on the Galaxy S9 last year.
PS4 and Xbox One
We’re still waiting for news of the PS5, but right now Sony is still all about the PS4 and the PS4 Pro and Microsoft continues to push its Xbox One S and One X deals to extend the ecosystem and get more people to buy its games and peripherals.
It’s in the bundles that we expect to see some good deals - although there weren’t as many sensational options last year (apart from some to include Red Dead Redemption 2), we always expect good bundles.
The same can be said on things like PSVR - last year saw some discounts there too, and we’re still seeing games come out of the platform, so the virtual reality discounts are still highly likely.
4K TVs - OLEDs especially
For TVs, using tools like PriceSpy or CamelCamelCamel is perfect, as you’ll really want to know the true previous price for the large sets.
Every year TVs are one of the big winners in terms of discounts - there’s usually something for everyone on offer, with low-cost 4K TVs something many retailers offered last year.
We often see discounts on LG’s OLED range, and OLED technology is dropping in price every year, making it far more of a bargain.
You can also look into Samsung’s QLED TV - it’s meant to be the equivalent of OLED tech in many ways - or top-end LED TVs if you’re looking to spend a little less. We’re talking less than $900 in for even 65-inch 4K HDR smart TV sets in some situations.
We also saw some sub-$100 prices for Full HD 40-inch sets in 2018, which is an insane price for a TV, even if the quality is less than you might expect at a higher price - there could still be one final hurrah for 1080p sets, perfect for the second bedroom or kitchen, in 2019.
Amazon Echo devices, Fire TV sticks and Kindle Fire tablets
It wouldn’t be Black Friday or Cyber Monday if Amazon wasn’t slashing the price of its own-brand devices.
There were multiple cuts to Amazon’s top tech in 2018, with the Echo Dot getting 50% off, the Ring series of smart home tech also being cut and Philips Hue bundles getting chucked in with the top-end Echo speakers.
What did we see on Prime Day this year? Well, top discounts on Amazon's Fire Stick and Fire Stick 4KTV, plus the lowest price ever on the Echo dot.
There were huge improvements in the amount of Ring and Blink devices sold, as well as Eero mesh routers - it shows that as the influence of Amazon's own devices grows, the same discounts get applied to Amazon's sales period (which includes Black Friday).
In fact, we’re expecting multiple smart home speakers and displays to be discounted again in 2019 - Lenovo and Google had high discounts on their top speakers last year, and the same is almost certain to happen again in order to pull users into the relevant ecosystems.
Will Black Friday 2019 be different in any way?
Black Friday 2019 should continue last year's trend of not just offering discounts, but offering discounts on items you'll actually want to buy. There was some fierce competition between Amazon, Walmart, B&H Photo and Best Buy last year, and that's a good sign headed into Black Friday this year.
Specifically, we're expecting to see big-ticket items like 4KTVs with HDR support – a once expensive proposition, and Apple to offer cheap iPads, which was a big hit last year.
New AirPods in 2019 may see the older models on sale for a better price, while laptops, iPhones and Android smartphones should be at their lowest levels in 2019. It's not surprise that Apple launches new iPhones in September to discount them (just a little bit) by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This mostly happens through US carriers and BYGO Free deals.
Black Friday predictions
The sales period has fallen into a rhythm, so here are some Black Friday predictions that we fee are safe bets:
Here at TechRadar we spent hours and hours sifting through the best deals on every major retailer - and last year we saw some really big trends emerge, which should influence this year’s discounts.
Headphones were among the big winners, with Apple’s AirPods desperately sought after throughout the US. Even though most stores only discounted them by $5, it was one of the top-selling gadgets on Black Friday.
Mobile carriers were offering hundreds of dollars off on flagship smartphones like the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max when customers traded in an old phone and started new lines of service. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 also got some straight discounts, especially when it came to unlocked models.
How does TechRadar prepare for Black Friday?
Black Friday is one of the most important times of the year for TechRadar - we spend weeks ahead of the big day (or weekend) making sure the whole site is ready for people looking for the information they need to help them make the right buying choice. Whether that's knowing which is the best laptop, TV or iPad, or just seeing great deals for them through our Hawk price comparison widget, we've got everything you need to know.
Nintendo Switch bundles once again outshone PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One and Xbox One X deals, and in the laptop world one of our favorite laptops, the Dell XPS 13, was reduced by over $400, which was an incredible knock-down.
Amazon makes life difficult on Black Friday by discounting pretty much everything. But, like Prime Day this year, the biggest price cuts come from its own products: Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers and its Echo devices last year, as we well the Ring series of tech that it bought. With Amazon having bought Eero, expect the mesh routers to be discounted, too.
(They certainly got a big boost this year, with six times as many Eero devices sold as the previous year for Prime Day 2019 - and we can expect the same for Black Friday too).
We’re not expecting the Black Friday bandwagon to slow down in any way this year, with retailers extending their deals even further than before to entice the buying public.
In 2018 we saw a couple of brands promise to ‘future price match’, meaning consumers could buy something now and know that if it got dropped in later wars to offer the cheapest tag, they could reclaim the difference.
However, despite all this we’re still expecting that the best deal will be found surrounding Black Friday - as ever, our advice is to know your budget going in, set a maximum price you’re willing to pay (having done the research to know what sort of prices your desired tech has been at throughout the year) and stick to it.
Not to be too self-promoting (OK, a little bit, but we really put the effort in here…) but TechRadar’s Black Friday deals pages are really worth keeping an eye on if you’re looking for the very best deals in tech.
(Bookmark this page and it’ll be populated with all the best Black Friday deals come November - you won’t even need to search it out!)
Why is Cyber Monday called Cyber Monday?
The term was coined by Ellen Davis and Scott Silverman of the US’ National Retail Federation and Shop.org, and it was a deliberate move to promote online shopping back in 2005 when the Internet was made of wood and powered by steam.
It was intended to help smaller retailers compete with the big names who were harping on about Black Friday, although of course those big names promptly jumped on the Cyber Monday bandwagon, too.
Are Black Friday deals real?
Generally speaking, yes - although there are two kinds of deals. The first has been pre-agreed between brands and retailers, so they’re not as off-the-cuff as you might expect. The other is sudden price drops, whether that’s an algorithm working out the best way to attract users to buy (as brands like Amazon often will) or just the big names price-matching one another, or pushing the price down further as they look to be the big winner. (We saw something similar with iPads in the US).
As with any sales event you’ll see a mixture of bargains, discounted end-of-line stock and strange things found in the back of a warehouse somewhere. In 2016, consumer magazine 'Which?' accused retailers of some pretty dodgy behavior.
Where can I find the best Black Friday deals?
As mentioned, you’ll find the best options if you bookmark this page right now - there will be deals from the beginning of November, and we’ll be bringing you the best of them, those that we think are worth checking out, the second that we see them flash up.
How do I get the best Black Friday deals in 2019?
Homework really helps. Some retailers up prices from August through to October so they can offer supposedly amazing discounts on Black Friday, so don’t be fooled by such moves. They’re particularly prevalent in expensive consumer electronics such as TVs or laptops with product numbers rather than names, with products that were dropped down to a great bargain price suddenly being pushed back to their MSRP again.
It’s also a very good idea to be flexible: for example, if you fancy a Samsung UHD TV it’s best to think about the features you want rather than a specific model number: the BRV553ABD34-82C-9218-X may not be discounted on Black Friday 2019, but an almost identical set with the specification you want probably will be - so do your research on what matters and we’ll do our best to give you the right comparison needed.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that something that looks like a five star set is the same but cheaper - certain elements (often with regards to screen quality or image processing) won’t be as high quality to achieve that lower price point.
Can I get cashback on Black Friday deals?
Sometimes, yes. Your debit card or credit card may offer cashback on purchases. It’s definitely worth looking into, not just for Black Friday 2019 but for any online shopping, when you’ll be spending the most online.
Am I protected when I buy on Black Friday?
In general, you should be just as protected as you are when shopping any other time of the year. You’ll want to check on return policies and warranty periods, and you should also make sure you’re shopping at known retailers you trust. While many deals can seem too good to be true on Black Friday, landing on an unfamiliar website claiming to have a product for pennies on the dollar is a good sign you’re in the wrong place.
Remember that using your credit card also can offer a level of protection, so as long as you have the means to pay it back straight away, using this method can give you more peace of mind. Many credit cards can help you contest payments if you never receive a product, and some even offer extended warranties on products beyond the one included from manufacturer or retailer.