Prime Day vs. Black Friday: What time should you buy?


Prime Day is coming on Oct. 13-14.

Angela Lang/CNET

This story is part of Amazon Prime Day, CNET’s guide on everything you need to know and how to make sure you get the best deal.

If you’re wondering whether to buy your holiday gear during Amazon’s Prime Day next week or wait until Black Friday, I have a simple answer for you: Buy early.

Prime Day, which is usually held in July, has become a major part of the retail calendar, with dozens of major stores joining in the sale to snag customers. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon delayed the event to Oct. 13-14 this year, making Prime Day more of an unofficial start to the holiday shopping season than its typical role as a kind of Christmas in July.

That’s going to put more pressure on retailers who traditionally save their premiere holiday sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Customers are expected to look for deals earlier this season and merchants will respond in kind. Walmart and Target, for instance, already announced sales to coincide with this year’s Prime Day.

“The biggest impact right now is how much pull Black Friday will have, in keeping consumers spending within the late November time frame,” said Vivek Pandya, an analyst for Adobe Digital Insights.

Retailers for years have been trying to get a jump on holiday shopping by starting their sales early, often right around Halloween, a trend that’s typically called “Christmas creep.” The results have been mixed at best, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday remaining the juggernauts of the holiday season. But customers have a lot of reasons to shop earlier this year, especially with Prime Day arriving in mid-October. That could scramble the pacing of the entire holiday season and, at least for this year, shift tons of sales earlier than usual.

Added to Prime Day’s arrival in October, there are a few big reasons why shoppers are motivated to buy early this year. Supply chains remain disrupted, which is slowing down new shipments of the most sought-after products. Online sales are through the roof, adding strain on delivery networks.

Shoppers are well aware of these issues and want to make sure that they can get the items they want and make sure, too, that those things arrive in time for the holidays. That dynamic is expected to cause supply shortages in high-demand items like electronics and work-from-home gear sooner in the shopping season than usual.

“If you see them, you should pick those up,” Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert for deals site RetailMeNot, said about hard-to-find items like free weights. “Come November you might not find something like that.”

Retailers are anticipating this surge in early buying, so some of the deepest discounts this season are expected to come around Prime Day, in some cases better than Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Skirboll said, “because [retailers] know they need to compete and they know that shoppers are going to be looking for deals.” 

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are sure to be massive selling days that include plenty of deals, too. But Skirboll recommends that if you see a good deal on an item you want to buy for the holidays, just grab it and don’t wait to see if it’ll drop in price.

Adobe’s Pandya agreed that retailers looking to go big on Black Friday and Cyber Monday will face more challenges than usual this year, with customers likely exhausting some of their holiday budgets before November and shipping bottlenecks likely causing delays.

Black Friday still has huge value since customers associate the term with discounts, so Pandya said people should expect to see lots of Black Friday deals. But even those might start showing up well before the actual Black Friday comes around.

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