What are Black Friday and Cyber Monday? How Australia jumped on the pre-Christmas bargain train

  • A spokesperson for Amazon said Black Friday in 2019 was the biggest sales day in Amazon Australia’s history.
  • Once American traditions, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have rapidly become huge shopping days on the Australian calendar, helping make November the biggest shopping month over December.
  • It’s a change largely driven by the pivot to online retailers.

In Australia, the traditional sales day is and has always been Boxing Day – the binge where just about every retailer offloads their Christmas stock at low prices. But that historic arrangement has been shaken up in recent years by the arrival of a thoroughly American tradition: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

You might well describe it as an act of cultural imperialism on par with the growing popularity of Halloween, but it’s hard to deny Australians are getting onboard. According to research from Finder, 71% of Australians planned to pick up deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with a total of $3.9 billion spent in November on clothes, beauty products, gadgets and travel.

So what are they? And why does it feel like we’ve all jumped onboard very quickly?


What is Black Friday?

The Black Friday rush. (Photo by Cris Faga/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Simply put, Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year in the United States, taking place on the Friday following Thanksgiving.

It hasn’t always been known by that name. In fact, there are conflicting stories as to why it has been given that particular moniker. Since the 1980s, it has referred to the rosy fact retailers are “in the black” following elevated sales. Some point to a darker etymology: A stock market crash back in 1869 caused by investors driving up the price of gold.

Either way, Black Friday represents the kickoff of the US Christmas shopping season. And, for those in the US, it’s usually the ideal time to buy gifts for the big day.

Amid the incredible sales across both retail and online, there is the darker element. We’ve all seen the photos and videos of riot-level disturbances in US stores as shoppers grapple for limited stock. If you haven’t, well – here’s some for your delectation.


What is Cyber Monday?

Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The somewhat dated name ‘Cyber Monday’ means less now than it used to.

Taking place on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday was first described in 2005 as the online equivalent of Black Friday – a way to encourage consumers to score their deals on the web instead of physical retail locations.

As a vast portion of commerce has moved online in the decade and a half since, the distinction between Black Friday and Cyber Monday has become far less profound. Now, the entire weekend from Black Friday to Cyber Monday is usually a bonanza of deals both online and in-store.

According to our pals over at Business Insider in the US, “Black Friday is a better day to shop for expensive, big-ticket items, while Cyber Monday is preferable for gadgets, gifts, and older-generation tech.”


Why are Black Friday and Cyber Monday a thing in Australia now?

Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The tremendous growth in Black Friday and Cyber Monday in Australia recently might seem sudden, but it’s largely driven by the continuing strong growth in online sales. The vast online savings for the Black Friday weekend in Australia vastly outstrip what is available in brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, the local retail sector is quite concerned now that November has overtaken December as the biggest sales month on the Aussie calendar. In the AFR, managing director of the Australian Consumer & Retail Studies Rebecca Dare expressed concern about vanishing margins as local retailers do their best to match sales from their nimble online counterparts.

But for those online retailers, the Black Friday weekend in Australia has become exceptionally lucrative. A spokesperson for Amazon Australia told Business Insider Australia the company has seen growth in Black Friday and Cyber Monday outside the United States generally.

“Black Friday has its origins in the U.S., but has taken off in many countries around the world including Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“It has been exciting to bring Australian customers Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as part of our key shopping events for the holiday season.”

The company says Black Friday this year was “the biggest shopping day in Amazon Australia’s history”.

For now, you can likely still nab a few sales in the Cyber Monday deal. Read our picks here.

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