Black Friday has been a shopping bonanza for the last two decades. Here's how it has evolved over the years.

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

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.

ReutersBlack Friday shoppers flood a Macy’s in 1997.

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.

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

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.

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

Source: Business Insider


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

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

Source: The International Council of Shopping Centres


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

William Thomas Cain/Getty ImagesA Black Friday shopper in 2003.

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 …

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

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


… sometimes even camping outside their preferred store …

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.

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.

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

Source: Business Insider


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

Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty ImagesBlack Friday shoppers in Best Buy in 2018.

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

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

Source: Reuters


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

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

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.

Shannon Stapleton/ReutersA Black Friday shopper in 2008.

Source: BestBlackFriday.com, Forbes


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

Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


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

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

Source: Business Insider


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

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

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.

Leon Neal/Getty ImagesA stack of Amazon boxes.

Source: Business Insider


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

Bill Greenblatt/Liaison/Getty ImagesShoppers on Black Friday in 2000.

Shoppers would have to brave sometimes intense crowds …

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

Source: New York Magazine


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

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

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.

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

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

Kamil Krzaczynski/ReutersBlack Friday shoppers in a Target in 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

Toby Melville/ReutersA Black Friday campaign in London in 2018.

Source: Quartz


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

Viktor DrachevTASS via Getty ImagesA 2018 Black Friday event in Belarus.

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.”

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.

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

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.

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

Source: CNBC, Business Insider, Business Insider

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