Before 2020, holiday shopping followed a fairly predictable schedule. Mini-sales started after Halloween on a store-by-store basis and built toward the big grand finale of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After that, all the big stores remained in a state of near-perpetual sales through the end of the year.
Then, the pandemic changed everything you knew about holiday shopping just like it changed everything else — and it all started when the virus forced just one online retailer to reschedule its big summer shopping holiday.
One year later and the reshuffling of the traditional fall holiday shopping calendar that took place in 2020 is still in full effect. Here’s what you need to know about the new normal at your favorite holiday haunts and when you can expect the discounts to be deepest.
Amazon: Right Now
In 2020, the pandemic forced Amazon to postpone Prime Day from its regular date in July to the middle of October. According to eMarketer, it was a game-changing moment.
The pandemic had already funneled the bulk of the country’s retail sales into e-commerce, so when the world’s largest online retailer held its biggest sales event of the year a month-and-a-half before Black Friday, the entire retail industry was forced into early holiday mode. What started out as a setback turned out to be the biggest Prime Day in Amazon history. Sales increased by $3.23 billion over 2019 for a total haul of $10.39 billion in 2020.
In 2021, Amazon moved Prime Day back to its regularly scheduled time in July, but it learned from last year’s early harvest. This October, Amazon began listing Epic Daily Deals that it promised would rival anything you’d find on Black Friday — and so far, many of them have.
The entire industry, once again, has been forced to follow Amazon’s lead.
Target: Strategize on Sundays
To keep pace with Amazon, Target brought back its three-day Deal Days event on Oct. 10 — almost exactly the same time as last year’s delayed Prime Day. After a brief lull, it followed Amazon into ongoing pre-Black Friday sales for the second year straight. On Halloween night — Sun., Oct. 31 — Target kicked off “Holiday Best,” a monthlong sales event that changes categories every week through Black Friday. Each Sunday, a new ad launches the week’s categories.
Last year, according to The Krazy Coupon Lady, Target followed the same format with the following weekly categories:
- Nov. week 1: Electronics
- Nov. week 2: Kitchen and floor care
- Nov. week 3: Beauty, apparel, and round 2 of electronics
- Nov. week 4: Video games and select consoles and, once again, kitchen, floor care, and electronics
It appears to be moving in the same direction this year, with the first week’s sales concentrating on electronics like laptops, headphones, smart TVs, and blenders. If you miss the first week, don’t worry — you’ll almost certainly have another go at electronics, but be ready on Sundays in November for your gift category of choice.
Walmart: Three Events in November
Like Target, Walmart finds itself in the familiar position of holding Amazon’s hand into early and ongoing holiday sales. Walmart is bringing back “Black Friday Deals for Days,” which it debuted in 2020 in response to Prime Day’s move to October.
The world’s largest retailer promises that it will squeeze its best deals of the holiday season into three events in November.
- Event No. 1: Deals start online on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. and continue in stores Nov. 5
- Event No. 2: Deals start online on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. and continue in stores Nov. 12
- Event No. 3: TBA
As an added perk, Walmart+ members will get early access to all the same deals four hours earlier than the general public for all three events — that’s a 3 p.m start time for the first two sales.
Best Buy: Nov. 19
If you’re in the market for tech gifts, it’s hard to compete with Best Buy’s holiday deals. Like the other big boxes, Best Buy was forced by Amazon’s gun-jumping to get its sales started early, which it did on Oct. 19. The retailer then took a month to regroup and its next big sale starts one week before Black Friday on Nov. 19. Best Buy is promising that its early deals will be as good as any of those you’ll find on the big day.
Promises are one thing. Guarantees are another.
Best Buy Totaltech and My Best Buy members can shop without worry thanks to the Black Friday Price Guarantee with automatic reimbursement. Best Buy will pay you back the difference if the price drops on any qualifying items you bought from Oct. 19 through the runup to the coming sale on Nov. 18, no questions asked.
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Last updated: Nov. 2, 2021