This season, holiday sales are expected to hit at least $942 billion dollars, which is a 6% increase from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. But with online shopping and earlier sales, does Black Friday still hold the same power in holiday shopping as it has in the past?

Kristen Gall, the president of the cash-back app Rakuten Rewards, says Black Friday “is not dead” but instead that “it’s just changing a lot.”

“A lot fewer of us are willing to go to the stores on Black Friday and battle people and use our elbows,” Gall said. 

The National Retail Federation estimates that 115 million people plan to shop in stores and online this year on the traditional day of discounted shopping, which comes the Friday following Thanksgiving. And an estimated 64 million people are expected to shop on Cyber Monday.

But some retailers are unleashing their sales weeks in advance this year, which Gall said also contributes to the changing Black Friday atmosphere. 

“Retailers are more willing to allow us to shop over a longer period of time,” Gall said. 

Excess inventory left over from the pandemic is also moving up those holiday sales. Gall said she foresees bargains this upcoming Black Friday “to be more aggressive than ever before” because of it.

“They don’t have space in their warehouses,” she said. “They’re going to lower prices on everything.”

But others, like CEO and president Eric Artz of the outdoor gear and clothing store REI, say Black Friday for them is indeed dying out. The company in 2015 started pulling back from Black Friday when it closed its doors on the traditional shopping day. This year, REI announced the move will be permanent.

Artz said business at REI “has thrived” since. 

“Inclusive of Black Friday actions, we posted a record year in both sales and profits,” he said. “It’s a testament to the fact that putting a purpose in your people first, putting it ahead of your profits, [that] the profits will come in due course.”

Stores like Target, Macy’s and Walmart have followed suit in recent years by closing on Thanksgiving Day. But the major retailers still nonetheless promote deals for Black Friday, keeping the tradition alive. 

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