A look back at how much Black Friday has changed over the years

Black Friday is traditionally one of the biggest shopping events of the year.

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Black Friday is traditionally one of the biggest shopping events of the year.
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ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

As the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday has long been a crucial day for retailers.

But the storied day of doorbuster deals has changed quite a bit in recent years. The rise of e-commerce has thinned the crowds of shoppers willing to brave a post-Thanksgiving hangover spent lugging around merchandise.

Business Insider scoured through the Getty and Reuters picture archives to find photos of Black Fridays of old. The photographs indicate some clear changes that have occurred between shopping events of the early 2000s and more recent Black Fridays, although the day remains a significant day for plenty of shoppers.

Here’s a look at how Black Friday has changed over time:


Black Friday as we know it really took hold in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Black Friday shoppers flood a Macy’s in 1997.
source
Reuters

Source: Business Insider


News reports circulated a popular myth about Black Friday, explaining that its name referred to retailers trying to be “in the black” in terms of profits.

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A couple leaves Bloomingdales on Black Friday in 2002.
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Jeff Christensen JC/Reuters

The term “Black Friday” actually dates back to a financial crash that occurred in 1869. The term took on a meaning in the retail world in the 1950s in Philadelphia.

Source: Business Insider, The Daily Journal, The Tampa Bay Times, Citizens’ Voice, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Constitution, The Times-Tribune, The Daily Reporter


And what had started out as an unspoken phenomenon became a staple of the retail world.

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Shoppers at a Walmart on Black Friday in 2003.
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PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Still, Black Friday was never the top holiday shopping day by sales even during the late 1990s.

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A shopper buys toys on Black Friday in 2002.
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William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Source: The International Council of Shopping Centers


By the early 2000s, the date took on a special significance for consumers in the United States.

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A Black Friday shopper in 2003.
source
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Source: The Daily Journal, The Tampa Bay Times, Citizens’ Voice, The Los Angeles Times


Traditionally, deal-seeking shoppers from across the nation would wake up super early …

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A Black Friday shopper takes a nap in a mall in 2008.
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Carlos Barria/Reuters

Source: The Daily Journal, The Tampa Bay Times, Citizens’ Voice, The Los Angeles Times


… sometimes even camping outside their preferred store …

source
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Source: The Daily Journal, The Tampa Bay Times, Citizens’ Voice, The Los Angeles Times


… all just to get an extra head start on rival customers.

source
Phil McCarten/Reuters

Source: The Daily Journal, The Tampa Bay Times, Citizens’ Voice, The Los Angeles Times


Retail employees, on the other hand, would hunker down and prepare for pandemonium.

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A toy shop employee hauls merchandise on Black Friday in 2004.
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STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Retail employees tell Business Insider that this level of chaos can still break out today on Black Friday.

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Black Friday shoppers in Best Buy in 2018.
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Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Of course, large crowds don’t always promise big returns for retailers.

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Shoppers in a Best Buy in 2008 on Black Friday.
source
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Deep discounting meant to attract Black Friday shoppers amid the 2008 financial crisis caused department store stocks to plummet, Reuters reported.

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Shoppers in a Best Buy in 2008 on Black Friday.
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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Source: Reuters


And 2008 wasn’t the only gloomy year for Black Friday. Overall spending volume on the day after Thanksgiving also fell in 2014.

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A Black Friday shopper in 2008.
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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Source: BestBlackFriday.com, Forbes


But Black Friday hasn’t diminished or gone away as much as it’s changed.

source
Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Today, perhaps the biggest challenge to the traditional Black Friday model has been the rise of e-commerce.

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An Amazon worker in England preps for the week of Black Friday.
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Leon Neal/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


In 2018, more consumers shopped online than in stores on Black Friday itself.

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An Amazon worker in England preps for the week of Black Friday.
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Leon Neal/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


And, influenced by the rise of Amazon and the online retail giant’s summertime Prime Day, retailers have experimented with unrolling deals throughout November and the entire holiday season.

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A stack of Amazon boxes.
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Leon Neal/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Back before e-commerce grew into the behemoth it is today, Black Friday could be a far more taxing experience.

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Shoppers on Black Friday in 2000.
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Bill Greenblatt/Liaison/Getty Images

Shoppers would have to brave sometimes intense crowds …

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Black Friday at a Best Buy in 2005.
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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Source: New York Magazine


… and, in some tragic instances, risk brawls, injury, or even death.

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Black Friday in a Walmart in 2005.
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AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


At the very least, it’s tough to drag yourself into the mall on the day after Thanksgiving, when you’d probably rather be relaxing.

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Black Friday shoppers in a Macy’s in 2006.
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Eric Thayer/Reuters

Despite all that, in-store events continue to tempt shoppers to this day.

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Black Friday shoppers in a Target in 2018.
source
Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Another thing that has changed significantly in recent years is Black Friday’s reach.

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Black Friday at a Best Buy in 2000.
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Bill Greenblatt/Liaison/Getty Images

Traditionally, the term has been synonymous with consumer culture in the United States.

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Black Friday at a Best Buy in 2018.
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Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Lately, retailers across the globe have begun to adopt Black Friday-style events …

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A Black Friday campaign in London in 2018.
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Toby Melville/Reuters

Source: Quartz


… with events kicking off everywhere from Belarus to London to São Paulo.

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A 2018 Black Friday event in Belarus.
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Viktor DrachevTASS via Getty Images

Source: Quartz


In 2018, Amazon even wooed London shoppers with a yoga class to celebrate Black Friday, declaring its pop-up store the “Home of Black Friday.”

source
Alex McBride/Getty Images

Source: Campaign


On the domestic front, foot traffic in stores on Black Friday declined by 1.7% between 2017 and 2018 in the US, CNBC reported.

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A Big Lots on Black Friday in 2018.
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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Source: CNBC


Between the lessening importance of in-store events, pivot to e-commerce, and expansion on a global scale, Black Friday’s role has changed over time, even as it remains a significant part of the retail calendar.

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A Best Buy store on Black Friday in 2018.
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Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Source: CNBC, Business Insider, Business Insider