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Which Black Friday Sales Are Better? Online vs. In-Store Deals

What you need to know before you brave the crowds on Black Friday or shop online.

Best Buy storefront
Best Buy

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Black Friday is only days away, but the sales and deals have been blowing up for weeks. It's peak season to save money on holiday purchases with major retailers offering some of their lowest prices of the year. But what's the difference between shopping in a physical store on Black Friday versus taking advantage of the best deals you can find online? 

While Black Friday officially takes place on Nov. 25 this year, major retailers have started their sales well before. Many Target Black Friday deals are already live as is Best Buy's Black Friday sale. Early Walmart Black Friday promotions are also live with more being added in the coming days, so there are plenty of deals to shop right now. 

The great news is you don't have to go to a brick-and-mortar store to find the savings. All of the aforementioned sales are running online as well as in-store -- though there are a few reasons why you might want to hit up your nearest big box store, which we'll explore below. While we're on the subject of seasonal shopping, check out our list of stores closed on Thanksgiving and the top tips for preparing for Black Friday

Meanwhile, check out CNET's Black Friday Deals liveblog for the latest in Black Friday bargains. 

Why online Black Friday deals are better

Best Buy Black Friday Sale
Best Buy

There are several benefits to shopping online during Black Friday. Firstly, you don't have to ditch your family on Thanksgiving or get up super-early the day after in order to go and line up outside a store in the cold. While you'll have to wait a few days for your purchases to arrive, they'll get brought right to your door. Talk about convenience.

It also means you can shop across multiple retailers. After scanning through some Black Friday ads, you might have noticed some particularly appealing deals at Walmart or Home Depot or Staples but you can't be in more than one place at once. Online however, you can make purchases at several retailers within minutes. It also means you can compare prices and make sure you're getting the best deal possible from the retailer you prefer to shop at. 

In recent years, online deals have been mostly identical to those offered in stores, too. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most retailers have shifted to offering their best deals online rather than encouraging people to crowd into stores, which is great for folks who never liked doing that. Some deals are available exclusively, or at least sooner, online with several sales kicking off hours or days earlier for online shoppers before appearing in stores. 

Why in-store Black Friday deals are better

Target storefront

Though Black Friday sales have certainly shifted to online-first over the last few years, there are still some reasons to consider shopping in person. Though it's convenient for all of your Black Friday purchases to just turn up at your door, there can often be a delay between you placing your order and it arriving. Whether it's a few days or several weeks due to products going on backorder, nothing beats getting your hands on the product you want and taking it home with you. 

Plus, though the number gets smaller each year, there are still some doorbuster deals that only launch in stores. It's also a chance to score some of the best Black Friday deals that sold out online shortly after going live -- your nearest store may still have stock to sell once doors swing open on the Friday morning. 

Ultimately, the best experience will come down to personal preference and the strength of your desire to snag the most exclusive deals. Unless you have a real hankering to shop in-person this year, the online Black Friday sales will likely suffice for you. For more tips ahead of the holiday shopping season, why not check out our guides on how to avoid shipping feessave on electronics and send surprise holiday gifts via Amazon?

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