TIME Retail

Walmart Breaks Single-Day Sales Record on Cyber Monday

Christmas shopping season starts with Black Friday
People shop on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2014 in New York. Bilgin Sasmaz—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The retailer is calling this week “Cyber Week,” touting a handful of tech gadget promotions that will run for several days

Walmart said this year’s Cyber Monday saw the most online orders in a single day in the retailer behemoth’s history, with a bulk of traffic in the early days of the holiday season derived from mobile devices.

The retailer said customers viewed more than 1.5 billion pages on Walmart.com between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday — an industry term for the Monday that comes after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Mobile accounted for about 70% of the traffic over that five-day period, Walmart said.

Though the numbers look rosy, Walmart didn’t provide any sales specific data. And while shoppers appeared to give retailers a lift on Monday with online sales rising 8.1% over last year’s numbers according to preliminary data from IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark, the increase wasn’t as strong as expected.

Reuters noted that observers had projected an increase between 13% to 15%. The growth also trails what was reported last year, when observers estimated that Cyber Monday sale rose as high as 21%.

Walmart is trying to milk the Cyber Monday lingo for as long as possible. The retailer is calling this week “Cyber Week,” touting a handful of tech gadget promotions that will run for several days. That highlights what observers have noted this year: with deals spread across a longer stretch of time, the significance of sales on any one single day could be diminishing.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY deals

Why Black Friday Sales Were a Bust—and How to Get the Best Deals Now

Shoppers pass by stores windows advertising Black Friday deals after the stores opened their doors at midnight.
Shoppers pass by stores windows advertising Black Friday deals after the stores opened their doors at midnight. Derek Davis—Press Herald via Getty Images

When "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" sales are available before, during, and after these traditional events occur, what's the point of shopping on the actual days?

Black Friday weekend was not the sales blockbuster retailers had hoped. In fact, the number of shoppers hitting the stores during the four-day period commencing on Thanksgiving and stretching through Sunday was down by more than 5% compared with last year, and overall spending was down 11%, according to National Retail Federation (NRF) data. The NRF blamed “early holiday promotions” as a key reason for the weekend’s sales slump. In other words, shoppers were buying less over the weekend because they had been buying more in the days and weeks before Thanksgiving—understandable considering that Black Friday-type sales popped up well before Black Friday.

Nonetheless, the numbers were received as a shock in certain circles because the hype machine had built up big expectations leading into Thanksgiving. According to a consumer poll conducted by Accenture before the holiday weekend, consumer excitement for Black Friday was at its highest level in eight years. Two-thirds of Americans reportedly said they were likely to shop (in stores or online) on Black Friday, up from 55% the year before and just 44% in 2007. Polls from the NRF indicated that some 140 million consumers would shop sometime between Thursday and Sunday of last weekend, and the NRF also forecast that retail sales for the holiday season as a whole would be up more than 4% this year.

There are many theories explaining why the forecasts were wrong and sales during the big shopping weekend failed to impress. They include the following:

There’s no sense of urgency. One criticism about stores being open on Thanksgiving is that doing so does not necessarily boost sales overall. Instead, Thanksgiving Day sales simply displace transactions that would have taken place on Black Friday or some other day during the holidays. By pushing Black Friday-type promotions in early November (and at the start of Thanksgiving week and on Thanksgiving itself) and then by following up that big shopping weekend with widespread Cyber Monday deals and weeks of markdowns thereafter, retailers give shoppers the impression that broad discounts are the rule rather than the exception pretty much through all of November and December. Consequently, because deals are a dime a dozen, shoppers have less of a sense of urgency about making purchases on Black Friday or any other particular day.

The Washington Post quoted NRF chief executive Matthew Shay making just this point in a recent conference call with reporters. “Shoppers have changed the way in which they view exclusive deals,” Shay said. “They have this expectation that they’re going to be here all the time.”

There’s no mystery as to how consumers developed this expectation: It’s come as a result of great deals being made available all the time during the last two months of the year. The widespread feeling among shoppers is: Don’t worry about missing out on some supposedly short-lived deal, because when it expires surely another will follow quickly on its heels.

The deals simply weren’t that great. With the exception of some extraordinarily cheap doorbuster promotions, the sale prices offered by stores over the past weekend weren’t amazing enough to convince consumers that they absolutely must trek or to the mall or pull the trigger on online purchases. Surely, the ubiquity of nonstop deals (see above) has something to do with lackluster excitement on behalf of shoppers. But the increased savvy of shoppers—who are armed with smartphones, who now do price comparisons instinctively, and who are primed to always expect bigger and better deals—factors in as well.

Fewer shoppers assume that stores have their best price on Black Friday nowadays. According to one poll, 70% of Americans said that Black Friday is meaningless because there will be more sales throughout the holidays.” There is also some hard evidence that there’s often nothing special when it comes to prices during Black Friday weekend; one study estimated that the average discount on Black Friday was less than 5%.

Whereas in the past shoppers may have made purchases simply because it was Black Friday or Cyber Monday, today’s consumers are more inclined to hold off until they see deals that seem so genuinely awesome they cannot be skipped. Sometimes it’s glaringly obvious that this is not the case with a retailer’s sale. Take the Cyber Monday promotion at Puma’s website. It offered 20% off purchases of $75 or more, 30% off orders of $100 and up, and 40% off orders of $150+. Meanwhile, by the time the Cyber Monday deal was being promoted, there was already another Puma promotion circulating on deal-tracking websites announcing that starting on Wednesday, December 4, Puma would be offering all merchandise at 50% off, with no minimum purchase requirement.

Sales forecasts are highly flawed. Barry Ritholz has made an annual tradition out of bashing holiday spending forecasts, including those of the NRF, as well as others from the likes of Forrester Research, which was cited by the New York Times in early November predicting a 13% rise in holiday sales. Ritholz ripped apart such forecasts as “acts of idiocy,” because to be accurate, they must take into account factors such as:

• How much income people will earn between now and the holidays, minus their actual expenses, plus their availability of credit;
• The psychology of how much Americans will actually be spending on gifts;
• The weather;
• And any other random events—ISIS, Ebola, Taylor Swift—that may interfere with holiday cheer.

What’s more, the forecasts are generally based on the input of consumers, who typically don’t have holiday budgets and have no idea how much they spent last year or how much they’ll wind up spending this year. Then add in that the poll data is often shaped and presented to the media by retailer interests—notably, the NRF—and what we have is a system that is so highly unreliable no one should be surprised when the forecasts are way off.

In terms of the overall economy, the good news is that the strength or weakness of Black Friday weekend sales is not necessarily an indicator of how sales will shape up for the holiday season as a whole, nor do slumping Black Friday sales mean that the economy is slumping as well.

What dismal Black Friday sales do mean for the rest of the season is that from now on, retailers are under extra pressure to unload merchandise—typically with increasingly more aggressive price promotions. “Every day is going to be Black Friday, every minute is going to be Cyber Monday. You can’t let up for a minute because of the competitive nature that is out there,” the NRF’s Shay said.

Bear in mind that the above comment, like much of the holiday spending survey data that has been proven questionable at best, comes by way of folks who are actively interested in helping retailers boost sales.

What does any of this mean to shoppers who simply want to know when they’ll find the best prices on holiday gifts? Pinpointing the optimal time to buy every last item in the worldwide marketplace is impossible, and we’re not going to even try. Suffice it to say that there is almost never, ever a reason to pay full price, and that you should use the biggest discounts on Cyber Monday and Black Friday as something of a benchmark. If you know what you want and see prices in the vicinity of what was listed on these big sales days, go ahead and make the purchase without hesitation.

Sure, you could shop relentlessly day after day and perhaps do a bit better, but that’s a formula for one seriously stressful holiday shopping experience. To save yourself both time and anxiety, make use of some of the shopping tricks we recommend, including price-adjusting services—which give you money back if goods wind up being discounted further after you bought them.

 

MONEY deals

20 Sites Where Everything Is on Sale Today, Often 40% to 50% Off

Laptop with shopping bag on screen
MONEY (photo illustration)—Getty Images

It's Cyber Monday, and while virtually every e-retailer has some of its merchandise on sale, others are holding big, across-the-board markdowns on everything under the sun.

Our roundup of top Cyber Monday deals is focused on retailer websites where absolutely everything is on sale. None of this garbage in which the discounts are “up to” 40% or 50% off—but only on “select” merchandise, with many goods available only at full price.

Nope, the markdowns from the retailers below are sitewide. With a few minimal exceptions, virtually anything and everything sold on the sites below is on sale today, and the discounts amount to at least 25% off.

One thing that’s notable is that the largest across-the-board Cyber Monday discounts tend to come from apparel sellers. Don’t think for a second, however, that retailers like Gap and Abercrombie and Tommy Hilfiger are losing money with their seemingly huge markdowns today. These discounts should serve as reminders that, in general, fashionable clothing is a category with extraordinarily high markups. The original list prices placed on items at these stores are inflated for two reasons: 1) They’ll be highly profitable if some trendy shoppers can be enticed into buying at full freight when the clothes seem freshest; and 2) The high prices serve as benchmarks to make the inevitable discounts seem all the more impressive and tempting.

Unless otherwise stated, the discounts and promotional codes listed here are valid for orders through Monday only.

25% to 35% Off
Crocs: 35% off sitewide with use of the code CYBER35

CVS: 25% off all regularly priced items with use of the code CYBER25

Dicks Sporting Goods: 25% off and free shipping on all orders

H&M: 30% off sitewide with use of the code 2896

Perfumania: 35% off sitewide with use of the code CYBER35, with free shipping on all orders

Sports Authority: 25% off your entire purchase and free shipping on all orders

Walgreens: 25% off sitewide for all regularly priced items, with use of the code GIFT25

40% Off
American Eagle: 40% off everything and free shipping on all orders with use of the code CYBERDAY

Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy: Use promo code CYBER for 40% off your entire purchase at each of these sister sites

Lands’ End: 40% off all regularly priced merchandise, plus free standard shipping on all orders

Rockport: Extra 25% off clearance items and 40% off nearly all other merchandise, with free shipping on all orders (no minimum purchase); use the code YESPLEASE at checkout

Saks Off 5th: 40% to 50% off sitewide with use of the code CLICKTOIT

50% Off
Abercrombie & Fitch: 50% off everything, with free shipping on all orders

Ann Taylor: 50% off sitewide with use of the code CYBER50

The Body Shop: 50% off everything, plus free shipping on all purchases

Lane Bryant: 50% off sitewide and free shipping (no minimum purchase) with use of the code CYBERCHICLB

Silkies: 50% off sitewide with use of the code CYB50

Tommy Hilfiger: 50% off everything with use of the code CM50

MONEY credit cards

6 Times You Should Use a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card

Handing Hotel Key and Credit Card at hotel reception desk
Carmen MartA-nez BanAs—Getty Images

Credit cards help and protect you in a big way under these six circumstances.

In the wake of the Great Recession, debit cards became increasingly popular among many who wanted to avoid the possibility of incurring debt. In fact, debit cards have several important qualities that credit cards lack, and there are times that even the biggest credit card fans should use their debit cards. Likewise, there are also some instances that debit card users should consider breaking out their credit cards.

Here are six times that you are better off using a credit card instead of a debit card.

1. Renting a Car

One of the most valuable perks offered by most credit cards is rental car insurance. These policies cover renters in most situations, and typically have a reasonable $500 deductible. On the other hand, there are no debit cards offered with rental car insurance policies. Furthermore, those trying to rent a car with a debit card need to purchase their own insurance, and submit a large deposit in the form of a hold on their account.

2. Staying in a Hotel

Like rental car companies, hotels will require debit card users to submit a deposit in order to rent a room. In this case, the deposit is required to cover any damage to the room, as well as any incidental purchases such as room service. But when using a credit card, there is merely a temporary authorization placed on the cardholders account. While this temporary authorization will use up some of the cardholder’s credit limit, it is far less of an issue than with a debit card, which freezes a cardholder’s available bank funds.

3. When Paying Your Balance in Full

When people give up on credit cards and switch to debit cards, they are giving up the possibility of earning rewards in exchange for eliminating the chance of incurring debt. Yet when credit card holders pay their balance in full each month, they never have to pay interest or get into debt. Rewards credit cards that offer valuable points, miles and cash back can be seen as a significant discount on a purchase. For example, some credit cards offer as much as 5% or 6% cash back at select categories of merchants. In addition, these cardholders receive a free loan for as long as 55 days.

4. Ordering Something to Be Delivered in the Future

When you order goods over the phone or the Internet, or you pay for services that have not been delivered, the method of payment you use makes a big difference if you never receive what you paid for. Debit card users have no recourse with their card issuers when they legitimately authorize a charge for goods and services that are never received. Instead, they must pursue a refund directly with the merchant or take them to court. But with credit card charges, the cardholder has the ability to request a chargeback when the goods or services ordered are not delivered as promised. When a chargeback is requested, card issuers immediately issue a temporary credit, which is made permanent once the cardholder’s claim is documented.

5. When You Need an Extended Warranty

When purchasing consumer electronics, many shoppers are asked to pay extra for an additional extended warranty. Yet most credit cards include extended warranty policies that cover purchases for an additional year beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. You will not find this feature in a debit card.

6. When You’re Traveling

Even travelers who don’t rent a car or stay in a hotel can still find plenty of valuable features in popular credit cards. For example, cards might include trip cancellation and trip interruption policies, which covers basic expenses when travel plans go awry. In addition, many cards offer lost or damaged luggage insurance, which covers losses that airlines do not. And finally, many credit cards offer travel assistance hotlines to help travelers arrange medical or legal assistance, or co-ordinate roadside automobile repairs.

Finally, it bears repeating: When you use a credit card for purchases, it’s ideal to spend no more than you can pay in full each month. If you carry a balance from month to month, it’s important to come up with a plan to pay it down so you don’t spend as much in interest charges over time. Because those can really add up. You can see how long it will take you to pay off your credit card debt using this free calculator, and you can also see how your credit card use is affecting your credit scores by getting your free scores on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Shopping

Best Buy’s Secret Comeback Strategy: Really Cheap iPad Minis

141201_EM_bestbuy_1
Alamy

With rock-bottom pricing, Best Buy appears to be hoping to use the iPad mini to drive traffic to its stores and online website.

Is Best Buy BEST BUY BBY 1.3773% finally back? After a half-decade of underperformance, the company finds itself in the midst of a positive news cycle courtesy of its recently released third-quarter earnings report. The company reported non-GAAP diluted EPS of $0.32 per share versus analyst expectations of $0.25 — a 28% beat. In addition, the company topped revenue expectations by 3% when it reported revenue of $9.38 billion.

More importantly, the company reported domestic comparable sales increased 2.4% excluding an 80-basis point estimated benefit associated with the classification of revenue for new mobile carrier installment billing plans. The knock against Best Buy centered on its large store footprint becoming a disadvantage against cheaper, online competitors in a trend called showrooming, where people try out what they want to buy in a physical store but buy it online. Eventually, Best Buy was able to blunt the effect of showrooming by instituting a price-matching program. However, if Best Buy’s newest iPad mini 2 deal is any indication, the company is no longer satisfied with price matching, and seeks to set the lowest price.

The iPad mini 2 is on sale at Best Buy — signs point to a loss leader

According to Apple Insider’s price guide, Best Buy offers the lowest prices among major retailers on many Apple products. For the iPad mini 2 16GB silver and space gray models, to take one example, Best Buy’s $224.99 price means you can actually buy this unit for $74 less than you could buy it from Apple direct. And with that price, it is lower than the original iPad mini direct price at $249.

With such rock-bottom pricing, Best Buy appears to be hoping to use the iPad mini to drive traffic to its stores and online website. According to DigiTimes back in 2013, the initial bill of materials for Apple’s iPad, including the retina screen, is higher than $200 — and that didn’t include the added costs associated with the new A7 chip and the M7 motion processor.

For a company used to pricing its products at a premium price — Apple reported a gross margin of 38.6% last fiscal year — Apple would either have to significantly lower its material cost if both Best Buy and Apple plan on making gross margins in line with company norms. However, due to the fact that Apple’s pricing the iPad mini 2 $74 higher than Best Buy’s offer, it appears that Best Buy is using the product as a loss leader of sorts.

And that’s good news for Apple’s iPad line. According to the company’s last annual report, Apple’s iPad revenue dropped 5% from the previous fiscal year, with unit sales dropping 4%. Last quarter, the iPad actually fell to Apple’s third-largest revenue driver, falling behind the company’s Mac line of computers. If iPad pricing is the underlying issue, Best Buy’s deal could help this product next fiscal quarter.

It’s not the only retailer discounting Apple products aggressively

Best Buy isn’t the only retailer using Apple to lure shoppers. Earlier reports show Wal-Mart’s WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT -0.9076% discount club, Sam’s Club, is leading the charge for the lowest-priced iPhone 6 by pricing the 16GB version at $99 with a two-year contract. That price is roughly 50% off the out-of-pocket cost of a 16GB iPhone priced at $199. Sam’s Club has struggled against rival Costco, and could use more foot traffic to counteract Wal-Mart’s sliding fortunes. The company reported a net sales increase of only 1.6% year over year last fiscal year.

For Apple, this could point to a blowout quarter. Recently, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo estimated first-quarter iPhone sales to grow 40% year over year. When two of the largest retailers are using your product in order to simply get customers in the door, Apple is further monetizing the “cool factor” many analysts complained it had lost in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death. Since then, new CEO Tim Cook has led the company to an astonishing $700 billion market capitalization and doubled its valuation. Perhaps those analysts should ask if the company ever lost it.

TIME Retail

Black Friday Spending Drops 11%

Shoppers Inside The Westfield San Francisco Centre On Black Friday
A man takes a break from shopping inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre on Black Friday in San Francisco, Nov. 28, 2014. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Spending this four-day weekend is expected to fall from $57.4 billion to $50.9 billion

Black Friday is starting to lose its luster.

A survey of shoppers from a national retail trade group shows that fewer people are shopping on the Black Friday weekend that historically marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, the Associated Press reports.

The number of people shopping in stores and online this weekend was 133.7 million, a 5.2% drop from last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey of 4,631 consumers.

The total amount of spending for the weekend is expected to fall from $57.4 billion to $50.9 billion, an 11% decline from last year. Per-person spending is expected to hit $380.95 for the weekend, a 6.4% drop from last year’s $407.02.

[AP]

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MONEY Shopping

What Small Businesses Are Doing to Woo You from Walmart and Amazon at Holiday Time

141128_EM_SmallBusiness
Matt Gray—Getty Images

Local mom-and-pop stores are trying to make a strong sales pitch to holiday shoppers, while getting squeezed by big box Goliaths on one side and cut-throat online discounters on the other.

Virtually all of the hoopla about Black Friday weekend focused on which retail giant has the best door buster deals and discounts. Amid the flurry of eye-popping markdowns, crazy marketing schemes, and general cut-throat competitiveness, it’s easy to overlook the little guys struggling to compete with Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Amazon, and all the other big retail players making noise in the marketplace. Indeed, as the results of a recent Bank of America survey show, the vast majority of small business owners feel left out of Black Friday: 74% said the day “has little to no impact on their bottom line, compared to 69% last year.”

To help small businesses avoid being thought of as mere afterthoughts during the epic shopping weekend, American Express created the day-after-Black-Friday tradition known as Small Business Saturday a few years back. It’s a fairly self-explanatory idea, in which consumers are encouraged—through deals, promotions, and special events—to shop at downtown mom-and-pop stores rather than hit the same old national retailers clogging malls and highway stops around the country.

Yet as Businessweek noted recently, compared with the frenzy of attention showered on huge national retailers on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, the trickle of special offers from small, independent shops is sorta “like bringing a (handmade) knife to a gunfight.”

Local shop owners say they having a particularly hard time competing with their oversized retail counterparts during the holiday season because online discounters push prices lower and lower, and national chains keep expanding store hours further and further into Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean that small businesses and downtown shopping districts in general are willing to simply concede holiday sales to the mall. Rather than taking one careful, strategic strike against a larger opponent like David does in his Biblical fight against Goliath, small businesses are banding together in communities around the U.S., with the hope that there is strength in numbers.

Here are a few of the ways that these Davids are collectively battling for attention and shopper dollars during the holidays:

Local Shopping Guides
Local-focused magazines in cities like Memphis and Chicago make a tradition out of publishing shopping guides highlighting gifts that are made and sold in their respective metro areas. Some local business associations also publish a special version of The Scout Guide, a concept born in Charlottesville, Va., in 2010 focused on the best independent and locally owned small businesses, which has expanded to dozens of U.S. cities. “Small businesses need to speak louder to be heard over the Internet and the recession,” one business owner in the Minneapolis area said to the StarTribune recently, explaining why she supported a Scout Guide for the region. “With limited promotional budgets, we have to do more to announce ourselves than take out an ad spot in the back of a magazine.”

Still other cities, notably Detroit, are issuing “passports,” which shoppers can get stamped at participating local stores in order to receive discounts and the occasional freebie.

Free Parking
To woo shoppers downtown—where so many local-owned restaurants and small businesses still set up shop—Philadelphia waives the usual requirement to feed parking meters on Saturdays, now and throughout the month of December.

Plaid Friday
Buy-local groups created Plaid Friday in 2010 in Oakland, Calif., as a relaxed, small-and-independent shopping alternative to Black Friday, dominated as it is by national retailers and their mass-produced doorbuster deals. Why plaid? The concept, which has since spread to Las Vegas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Portland, Maine, and beyond, is all about “weaving the individual threads of small businesses together to create a strong fabric that celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses.”

Small Business Saturday Deals
American Express launched Small Business Saturday—the day after Black (and now, Plaid) Friday—in an attempt to remind shoppers of the importance of supporting local businesses, while also reminding them that independent shops sell all manner of quirky, unique, and memorable gift items that never wind up on the shelves of the big box chains. In addition to the sales and deals available at mom-and-pop shops, AmEx gives registered cardholders up to three $10 statement credits each time they spend $10 or more at participating small businesses on Saturday. Sacramento and other cities participating in shopper passport programs around the country typically have special promotions centered on Small Business Saturday. Billings, Mont., meanwhile, has a printable game board featuring dozens of local shops: Get 10 of them checked off by visiting now through Sunday and you can enter to win gift cards valid at participating local businesses.

Parades & Special Events
Beyond the sales on Small Business Saturday, cities such as Wilmington, Del., are hosting parades to draw shoppers to downtown business districts, while the Stay Local group in New Orleans is coordinating all sorts of events to take place on Saturday, including celebrated authors serving as special volunteer booksellers.

MONEY deals

6 Black Friday Deals So Crazy You Won’t Believe They’re Real

dogs with "adopt me" signs
Jim McKinley—Alamy

Black Friday deals on TVs, tablets, toys, clothing, and jewelry come as no surprise. But how about Black Friday promotions featuring guns, giveaways of cats and dogs, and the requirement to strip down to your underwear?

Here are a half-dozen downright bizarre Black Friday deals:

Free Cats & Dogs
At least one Humane Society (in Oregon) is waiving the usual $50 adoption fee on cats now through December 1. In addition to free cat adoptions, the shelter is knocking $50 off normal dog adoption fees, which generally run $100 to $350. Other humane societies around the country are hosting Black Friday pet deals such as free dogs if they’re black and at least six months old (Kansas) and a promotion of $5 to adopt a cat 5+ years old and 50% off the adoption of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals (in Massachusetts).

Buy a Car, Get It Free If It Snows on Christmas
A car dealership in Chicago has a sales pitch that’s tempting for those who like to gamble—and that could wind up being extremely costly for its promoters. The deal is that all customers who buy a new Buick or GMC automobile at the dealership on Friday or Saturday will get full refunds on their purchases if it snows six or more inches on Christmas. The dealership is calling the promo its “White Friday” sale.

Guns & Ammo
It may not be what your family expects to find under the tree or stuffed in stockings on Christmas morning, but guns have come to be hot sellers on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season. Last year, the number of FBI background checks conducted for each firearm purchase on Black Friday was nearly triple that of a typical sales day. Why are guns hot sellers during this period? Largely for the same reasons that so many other items are hot sellers right about now—because stores have big promotions to attract customers. Walmart is discounting all firearms by 20% for its Black Friday sale, while gun enthusiast websites are filled with firearm and accessory deals—weapons, targets, ammunition, and more—from a wide range of retailers around the country.

Wait Outside in Your Underwear, Get Free Clothes
Among the many early Black Friday sales that have popped up this week, probably the strangest took place on Tuesday at Desigual in San Francisco: As the Consumerist pointed out, the first 100 shoppers waiting outside the store wearing nothing but their underwear received free tops and bottoms from the Barcelona-based fashion retailer.

Buy a Car, Get a TV
The first ten customers to buy new cars at a Toyota dealership in Missouri received free flat-screen TVs thrown into the deal on Black Friday. What’s more, the first ten people in the door at the dealership on Friday were handed $25 gift cards for ham—no car purchase required.

Loans and Online Bank Accounts
Everyone else feels comfortable glomming onto Black Friday for sales and marketing purposes, so why not financial institutions as well? The Utah Community Credit Union, for instance, is advertising “BLACK FRIDAY DOORBUSTERS!” in the form of auto, home equity, and personal loans with supposedly great terms. Capital One 360, meanwhile, is hosting a Black Friday Sale, with bonuses like $100 for new savings and checking accounts and, depending on how much you invest, $150 to $1,250 bonuses for those opening a new online trading account or IRA.

Bear in the mind that even if these offers are truly good deals, taking out a loan or opening a new bank account is certainly not something you decide impulsively because of some flashy promotion. For that matter, no one should go adopting a pet or buying a gun on an impulse either.

TIME Economy

The (Recent) History of Black Friday Shopping

Christmas Shopping Season Kicks Off In New York City
Shoppers at Macy's on Nov. 28, 2003, in New York City. Stephen Chernin—Getty Images

The holiday season has long been considered shopping primetime — but the Black Friday rush is a more recent phenomenon

In 1938, a TIME reporter marveled at the artificial snow falling in the display window of Lord & Taylor’s on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Major retailers were just beginning to invest in their displays to entice potential customers ahead of the Christmas shopping spree, and the reporter was impressed.

“All this not only added melody to Christmas shopping but made the Avenue’s 80,000 daily pedestrians acutely aware of an artistic rivalry which has begun to show signs of lustiness,” the reporter wrote in the December 1938 issue.

As that TIME story attests, the competition for consumer dollars over the holidays is nothing new. As far back as the 19th century, the window between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been considered primetime for shopping. In fact, the retail industry was so intent on squeezing the most sales out of that period that they convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to push the Thanksgiving Holiday forward to the third Thursday in November; the new date failed to catch on or spur shoppers, so President Roosevelt reversed the change in 1941. (Read more about that decision here.)

But that doesn’t mean that Black Friday, the shopping bonanza the day after Thanksgiving, has an equally deep past.

Until recently, the largest shopping day of the year was not Black Friday but the Saturday before Christmas, says Jesse Tron, the director of communications for the International Council of Shopping Centers. According to one TIME article from 1968, the seasonal shopping rush didn’t even really begin until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In fact, TIME didn’t use the term to refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving until 1998. (Black Friday had traditionally referred to the financial crisis of 1869.)

So how did the pseudo-holiday take root? The term itself is traced back to Philadelphia in the 1960s, where police used it to label the crowds of shoppers and ensuing traffic jams. It would later be explained apocryphally as the day that retailers begin to make a profit–or go into the black–after months in the red.

Indeed, the term was eventually reappropriated by the retail industry, which had begun in the 1950s and 1960s to offer sales that Friday in order to woo shoppers, who often had the day after Thanksgiving off from work (to shop, so the retailers hoped). The day-long shopping spree gained traction in the Internet age, when sales and coupons could be more widely publicized. By 2002, Black Friday had indeed become the biggest shopping day of the year.

Read TIME’s 1961 cover story about how Christmas became a gift-giving holiday: But Once a Year

TIME Economy

FDR Moved Thanksgiving to Give People More Time to Shop

Franklin D. Roosevelt Thanksgiving
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family, during Thanksgiving dinner in 1937 Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In 1939, the President got a pretty wacky idea about post-turkey shopping

Thanksgiving had been an official national holiday for decades when, in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt decided to mix things up.

The November calendar that year was an odd one: the month had started on a Wednesday, so there were five Thursdays rather than four Thursdays. Though Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of the month since the time of Lincoln, that August Roosevelt “broke his umptieth [sic] precedent,” in the words of TIME, and declared that he was moving the national Thanksgiving day up a week, the the second-to-last Thursday in the month.

Many people were not happy about the change, as TIME reported the week after it was announced:

Only since 1863 has Thanksgiving had a consistent year-to-year day, but football coaches were furious: 30% of them had games scheduled Nov. 30 which would now play to ordinary weekday crowds. Calendar-makers took the blow quietly except for Elliott-Greer Stationery Co. of Amarillo, Tex., which happily discovered it had designated Nov. 23 as Thanksgiving Day by mistake. Alf Landon sounded off in Colorado as follows: “. . . Another illustration of the confusion which his impulsiveness has caused so frequently during his administration. If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken in working it out . . . instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.”

Yes, Roosevelt’s Republican rival did just compare FDR to Hitler because of this.

But FDR had a Black Friday-friendly explanation: merchants wanted a holiday that was farther from Christmas, allowing more time to shop. By that fall, 22 states had decided to play along with the change in their official calendars, 23 were sticking with tradition and Mississippi hadn’t decided. (Two states, Texas and Colorado, decided to observe both holidays.) The President stuck with the change the following year, declaring Nov. 21 to be the official Thanksgiving Day for 1940.

The following year, however, TIME’s headline on the topic was “President Admits Mistake”:

Midway in his press conference, with no change of voice or expression, the President picked up a memorandum and said there was one thing more. The reporters, expecting an announcement of the occupation of Martinique, or the declaration of a national emergency, sucked in their breath. They let it out again when they heard the President say that in 1942 Thanksgiving would be changed back to the traditional date, the last Thursday in November.

Nobody rushed for the telephone. But seasoned old Pundit Mark Sullivan grasped the full historic significance of the change: though some New Deal experiments had been killed by Congress, and a few had been invalidated by the courts, this was the first one to be formally renounced. The President made it clear that he had not been responsible for the mistake in the first place. Retail merchants had wanted the date of Thanksgiving set a week ahead to lengthen the shopping season before Christmas; the expected boon to trade had not materialized; the changed date had been an experiment and the experiment had not worked.

It was, by then, too late to change 1941’s calendars, on which the old-new Thanksgiving date (the third Thursday) had already been printed. And in Maine, things were even more extreme: “Now that President Roosevelt has gone back to the old Thanksgiving,” TIME reported, “Republican Governor Sumner Sewall has proclaimed the new Thanksgiving for the first time.”

By the end of 1941, Roosevelt had signed a bill officially sticking Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, whether or not it was the last Thursday of the month. His attempt to give Americans a longer holiday season had proved futile — but, as anyone at a mall this Friday could attest, his instinct about the nation’s desire to get shopping wasn’t entirely misguided.

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