Shopping holidays have become a significant part of retail culture in the United States and worldwide. They’re a day or period recognized for special promotions and significant discounts within the retail sector. These events are strategically scheduled to encourage customer spending, often coinciding with cultural or national celebrations.

The growth and evolution of holiday shopping have turned certain days into highly anticipated events for both shoppers and businesses. For example, Black Friday in the United States marks a major annual event for in-store and online retailers.

Key Takeaways

  • Shopping holidays are celebrated with special promotions and substantial discounts to boost customer spending, often aligning with cultural or national celebrations.
  • The concept of holiday shopping has evolved from cultural traditions and commercial innovations. Milestones include holiday window displays in the 1930s, Black Friday as a shopping event in the 1960s, and the rise of e-commerce in the 2000s.
  • Some of the major shopping holidays include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day.
  • Recent holiday shopping trends include e-commerce and mobile shopping growth, early shopping, marketing personalization, sustainable shopping, Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) offers, social media influence over buying decisions, voice commerce, and the focus on free & fast shipping and experiences.
  • Useful shopping tips include starting early, setting a budget, creating a shopping list, comparing prices, reading product reviews, using cashback and reward programs, looking for free shipping, being aware of return policies, and considering gift cards.

Shopping Holidays – An Overview

Holiday shopping is a practice during specific days or periods recognized nationally and internationally for their emphasis on increased consumer spending. The general meaning is any date set aside primarily for purchasing goods at retail stores. Widespread sales events, promotional discounts, and special offers from retailers mark these special times.


Note: The purpose of holiday shopping is two-fold: they’re opportunities for businesses to boost their revenues and help customers benefit from price reductions and special deals.

History of Shopping Holidays

Holiday shopping has evolved from both cultural traditions and commercial innovations, shaping shopping behaviors worldwide. Significant milestones include:

  • 1930s: major retailers begin holiday window displays.
  • 1960s: Black Friday becomes associated with shopping.
  • 1980s: Black Friday is recognized as the start of the U.S. holiday shopping season.

Early Days

The concept is deeply tied with festivities like Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly since Black Friday happens right after Thanksgiving. This occasion marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, with retailers offering discounted prices to encourage sales.

The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that it gained widespread popularity as a major shopping day.

Spread and Adoption

The 21st century saw the expansion of the internet and, with it, the transformation of holiday shopping. By the mid-2000s, many customers began shopping online, with platforms like Amazon and eBay becoming major players since their inception in 1995.

This digital revolution has spread the concept of shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday worldwide.

Modern Times

Now, shopping holidays thrive online, with days like Cyber Monday catering exclusively to online retailers. This digital shift has made them more accessible to customers, who can now shop from the comfort of their homes and often enjoy benefits like free shipping and returns.

How Shopping Holidays Work

One characteristic element of holiday shopping is strategic timing. Retailers carefully choose these dates to maximize profit and often align them with public or cultural events. For instance, Black Friday is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days. Companies offer significant discounts, attracting masses of shoppers to both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Another aspect is the product focus. Certain shopping holidays may center around specific categories of goods. For example, Cyber Monday caters mainly to online technology and electronics deals.

Common features of these holidays include:

  • Discounts and promotions: retailers offer special deals to entice customers to spend more.
  • Increased advertising: marketing campaigns are boosted to create awareness and hype.
  • Limited-time offers: many deals are available only during the holiday period, adding a sense of urgency.

Purpose of Shopping Holidays


Note: The concept of holiday shopping has evolved significantly over time. While they were once solely tied to physical retail stores – with people camping outside stores for Black Friday sales, for instance – the rise of e-commerce has revolutionized the phenomenon.

Shopping holidays hold a significant place in retail and e-commerce landscapes. Shoppers can plan their significant purchases around these times to take advantage of the sales and discounts.

For retailers, shopping holidays can help increase sales, clear old stock, attract new customers, and strengthen their relationships with existing ones. They create a captivating retail atmosphere, enticing buying sprees with lucrative deals.


Tip: Last but not least, employment opportunities typically expand as retailers prepare for the influx of customers. Seasonal positions often surge to accommodate heightened demand, temporarily boosting employment rates.

Best Shopping Holidays of the Year

Here are major days when you can find deals on various products, with retailers often offering significant discounts to encourage spending.

Black Friday

Traditionally held the day after Thanksgiving, it’s one of the most anticipated shopping holidays in the United States. Retailers offer deep discounts on items ranging from electronics to apparel, making it an ideal time to make significant purchases at reduced prices.

Cyber Monday

Following Black Friday, Cyber Monday is geared towards online shopping with exclusive deals. This day has seen a surge in popularity as shoppers take advantage of sales from the comfort of their homes. It’s traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after Thanksgiving. 

Boxing Day

Boxing Day, traditionally celebrated on December 26th, originated in the United Kingdom and is largely recognized in countries that were former British colonies. This includes Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


Note: Boxing Day is not widely recognized or celebrated in the United States as a shopping holiday. However, U.S. retailers often continue their after-Christmas sales and promotions into December 26th. This is similar in spirit to Boxing Day sales in other countries.

Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day is observed on November 11th and originated in China (via e-commerce giant Alibaba) to celebrate singlehood. It has become the world’s largest online shopping day. Its enormous sales volumes outpace Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, with retailers offering very attractive discounts, especially on e-commerce platforms.


Note: While not traditionally observed in the United States, some U.S. retailers and brands have started to offer Singles’ Day sales and promotions.

Amazon Prime Day

Initiated by the e-commerce giant Amazon, Prime Day is an exclusive shopping holiday for Amazon Prime members, offering significant discounts across a wide range of products. Though it started in mid-July, the date of Prime Day can vary from year to year.

Prime Day was a one-day event initially launched in 2015 to celebrate Amazon’s 20th anniversary. It has since expanded, and recent Prime Days have become multi-day events lasting for 48 hours. Amazon doesn’t typically announce the exact date of Prime Day until about two weeks before the event.

St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, is predominantly recognized for its cultural and religious significance, particularly in Ireland and among Irish communities worldwide. It commemorates Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

While not traditionally considered a major shopping holiday akin to Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it does create opportunities for certain types of businesses to increase sales.

Pros and Cons of Shopping Holidays

👍 Pros

  • Substantial discounts and special offers: shopping holidays allow customers to purchase items at a reduced cost.
  • Opportunity for planned purchases: for significant purchases, shoppers may want to wait for a shopping holiday to capitalize on sales. This can include everything from electronics to furniture.
  • Boost to the economy: increased consumer spending during holiday shopping can lead to a short-term boost in the economy, supporting businesses and potentially leading to job growth.
  • Introduction to new products: retailers often use these holidays to introduce new products or product lines. Customers can discover these new products at discounted prices.
  • Excitement and tradition: many people look forward to shopping holidays as a fun tradition. The thrill of bagging a good deal adds to the excitement.

👎 Cons

  • Impulsive spending: the allure of sales can lead to impulse buying decisions. Shoppers may end up purchasing items they don’t need simply because they’re on sale.
  • Budget strain: while individual items may be discounted, the total expenditure during holiday shopping could go over your planned budget.
  • Potential for stress: physical stores can be crowded and stressful. Customers often must navigate packed shops, long lines, and sold-out items.
  • Old(er) products: some businesses use shopping holidays to clear out old or overstocked merchandise. Customers looking for deals on the latest products may be disappointed.
  • Pressure on supply chains and delivery: the surge in orders can result in delays, leading to longer waiting times for customers. The congestion can also lead to more errors in order fulfillment, causing frustration for both the customer and the retailer.

Here are some key trends observed in recent years that shape how people shop during holiday seasons:

  1. E-commerce growth: more people are shopping online than ever before. E-commerce sales have seen a steady increase.
  2. Mobile shopping: mobile shopping or m-commerce has seen a rapid increase. More consumers are using their smartphones to browse deals, compare prices, and make purchases.
  3. Early shopping: customers start their holiday shopping earlier, sometimes as soon as October. Retailers are responding by offering deals and discounts well ahead of traditional shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  4. Personalization: personalized marketing messages and product recommendations increasingly affect shopping decisions.
  5. Sustainable shopping: more customers are considering the environmental impact of their shopping habits and prefer to shop from brands that demonstrate sustainability efforts.
  6. Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS): this shopping trend has gained popularity as it combines the convenience of online shopping with avoiding shipping fees.
  7. Social media influence: customers find gift inspiration, reviews, and deals on these platforms.
  8. Voice commerce: with the rise of smart speakers and virtual assistants, voice-activated shopping is a growing trend.
  9. Importance of free, fast shipping: a significant factor affecting customer choices is the availability of free shipping options.
  10. Focus on experiences: more customers are interested in giving experiences as gifts, like concert tickets or vacation packages, rather than physical items.

Holiday Shopping Tips

Here are some tips to help shoppers navigate through these periods more economically:

  1. Start early: don’t wait until the last minute for your holiday shopping. Starting early can help you avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and give you more time to find the best deals.
  2. Set a budget: before you start shopping, determine how much you can afford to spend. Stick to your budget to avoid overspending.
  3. Create a list: make a list of everyone you plan to buy gifts for, including what you want to buy them. This will help you stay organized and prevent impulse purchases.
  4. Compare prices: use online tools to compare prices across different retailers. Don’t settle for the first price you see; you might find the same product for less somewhere else.
  5. Read product reviews: before purchasing, especially high-cost items, read product reviews to make an informed decision.
  6. Leverage cash back and reward programs: use credit cards that offer cash back or rewards for your purchases. Also, take advantage of loyalty programs offered by different retailers.
  7. Look for free shipping: many online retailers offer free shipping during the holiday season. Look for these offers to save on delivery costs.
  8. Read return policies: understand the return policies of the stores where you shop. Some stores offer extended return policies during the holiday season, but stricter rules may also apply. It all depends on the specific retailer.
  9. Consider gift cards: if you’re stuck for a gift idea, consider a gift card for a favorite restaurant, store, or so on.

Shopping Holidays FAQs

What Is a Shopping Holiday?

A shopping holiday is a specific day or period that encourages increased spending through sales, deals, and special offers. These holidays can be national or international events in the physical retail and e-commerce sectors.

What Are the Major Shopping Holidays in the US?

The most popular shopping holidays in the United States include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. Other international shopping holidays include Singles’ Day in China and Boxing Day in the UK and other Commonwealth nations.

Which Holidays Have the Biggest Sales of the Year?

The year’s biggest sales typically occur on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, often extending over the entire Thanksgiving weekend.

What Are the Benefits of Shopping Holidays?

For customers, shopping holidays offer the opportunity to purchase goods at significantly reduced prices. For retailers, they provide a chance to boost sales, clear older inventory, and attract new customers.

What Are the Drawbacks of Shopping Holidays?

Drawbacks include impulsive spending, financial stress, crowded stores and stressful shopping environments, and increased pressure on supply chains and delivery services.

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