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What is Black Friday and why should I care?

If you've made hay with ITProPortal in the past, you might have noticed that we refer obliquely to the "lucrative pre-holiday shopping season" from time to time. And, as Christmas rapidly approaches, you'd be perfectly entitled to wonder exactly what we're on about, and when the retail festivities really kick off in earnest.

One common consumer landmark is Black Friday, an American tradition which falls the day after Thanksgiving and is widely regarded as heralding the official start of the Christmas shopping season. Similar to Boxing Day in the UK, Black Friday is renowned for featuring aggressive discounting in the retail sector, with stores typically opening in the early hours of the fourth Friday of November to lure consumers out of their beds with the promise of cut-price deals. It is dubbed 'Black Friday' because it is thought to be the day when retailers finally break even and begin to accrue profit - moving from the 'red' to the 'black' in financial slang. Understandably, electronics products are usually central to the day's offers.

"This year's Black Friday deals revolve around electronics – plenty of televisions, tablets, and laptops will be ripe for the picking," the US News and World Report opined, highlighting heavily discounted Nikon digital cameras, 50in Samsung HDTVs, and HP "Sleekbook" notebooks as among the offers US consumers could expect to find on Black Friday 2012.

America's de facto national sales holiday has becomes even more extreme in recent years, as shops endeavour to gain every possible advantage over their competitors amidst the backdrop of a struggling economy: larger retail outlets like Sears, Toys R Us, and Walmart in particular have aroused the ire of their employee base by now opening on the evening of Thanksgiving itself. Web portals specifically dedicated to the day have also popped up, with and among the better known.

Accompanying the physical Black Friday retail bonanza is its online equivalent, Cyber Black Friday, and the discount spree continues into the following week with the related online deal day, Cyber Monday. Indeed, like many US traditions, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday have now been exported abroad, with American firms like Amazon and Apple increasingly publicising the annual Christmas retail brouhaha in the UK and, in some cases, extending it beyond its current parameters.

"Black Friday Deal Week offers millions of pounds of savings on hundreds of Christmas gifts as well as everyday essentials. From electric toothbrushes to the must-have video game or cookery book, it's a great opportunity for customers to make savings on things they want for themselves as well as gifts for others," said Christopher North, managing director of

So what sorts of deals can UK consumers look forward to this week? A quick look on Amazon's Black Friday Week portal turns up a plethora of quality price-crunched products, including a Griffin military standard iPad case knocked down from £55 to £28, as well as 70 per cent off a Fujifilm FinePix 3D digital camera, and nearly £150 off a 13in MacBook Pro sporting Intel Core i5. New generation Windows 8 laptops and USB flash storage devices also looked well represented.

In other words, keep your eyes peeled for the foreseeable future, as the steal of the season could be lurking under the icicle clinging to your nose.