Ah, the ‘90s. The era of bucket hats, butterfly clips, the first Macintosh computers, “Friends,” and phones made for the sole purpose of actually making calls. A lot has changed in the decades since, and Black Friday is no exception.
Though the biggest sale day of the year has always drawn hearty crowds of savings-hungry shoppers, the craze of the holiday has increased tenfold in the past two decades. What was once a day of wildly low prices on the year’s most-wanted items is now a cultural phenomenon spanning an entire week, with its cousin Cyber Monday immediately following.
In 1996, we could watch the morning news broadcast live interviews with those few dedicated shoppers camped outside of electronics stores, determined to be the first to grab one of a limited stock of coveted Macintosh computers or Nintendo 64s.
This year, we’ll scroll through Twitter to see online versions of local news broadcasts showing interviews with scores of similar dedicated Black Friday veterans, though they’re more likely to be awaiting a chance to snag a new 50-inch TV, or an Apple product exponentially more advanced than that of its ’96 predecessors.
To see just how much things have really changed, check out this list of comparisons between Black Friday ads and sales in 1996 to projected Black Friday ads in 2016.
Not only did technology — and the world — not come to a screeching halt in the year 2000, but the world’s fascination with and reliance upon technological innovation has increased tenfold in the years since.
Aside from the aforementioned Macintosh desktop, some of the other biggest electronics buys in ’96 were the 1.2 GB hard drive ($220 after rebate); the Motorola flip phone (free with contract); the Walkman (between $15 and $60); the 4MB memory upgrade ($30); 28.8 kbps modem ($280); 13-inch TV with built-in VCR ($300); CD Rom drive ($150); pagers ($70); and the Packard Bell desktop computer ($1,467 after rebate).
This year’s list of most-wanted tech items looks pretty similar to that from 1996, though much more advanced. Although most Black Friday 2016 ads aren’t live yet, there are some predictions based on previous years and current sales. According to TheBlackFriday.com, one of the hottest items on sale at Best Buy right now is the LG 55-inch 4K Ultra Smart HD TV, which may also be a Black Friday favorite. In 1996, we could barely fathom a smart TV, let alone an ultra-smart one. Also, some Black Friday aficionados are suggesting drones will be a big hit this year, though these are a bit of a wild card.
Games, too, are traditionally a huge draw for Black Friday shoppers. In 1996, besides the Nintendo 64, the Sega Saturn was a major deal, selling for $200. The Super Game Boy was advertised at $40, as were PlayStation games. And lest we forget, before there were smartphone apps like Pokémon Go, there was the Tamagotchi, which, in ’96, sold for just a few weeks’ allowance, or $15.
This year, some Black Friday experts are suggesting the release of the Xbox One S and the rumored release of Sony’s PlayStation Neo, along with the discontinuation of Xbox 360s and Disney Infinity, will lead to major steals on gaming consoles. There are also a host of remastered video games about to be released, such as Bethesda, Call of Duty: Infinite, and Pokémon Sun and Moon, leading many to suggest that games will be a major Black Friday focal point.
Of course, no Black Friday would be complete without a mad dash to the toy aisle for the season’s most beloved toy. In 1996, the champions of children’s hearts everywhere were by far the Tickle Me Elmo doll and Beanie Babies. As for the latter, these were also a big hit with many teens and adults, rumored to gain significant value over time.
When it comes to pop culture, though the faces have changed, our hunger for it has stayed the same. While most of us nowadays watch TV and movies from our computers or flat-screens, back in ‘96 the wide-screen TV marked the dawn of a new era. Some of the hottest Black Friday deals on movies included films like “Forrest Gump,” “True Lies,” and “Braveheart” available from $9.99 to $15.95—or about the price of one month’s subscription to Netflix. When it came to the still-popular VHS, some of the coolest buys were “Buffy,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Good Son” and “Alien Nation,” all on sale for $5.99 a piece.
This year, predictions for some hot entertainment buys include DVDs of popular movies like “Anchorman 2” and “Magic Mike XXL” on Blu-Ray for $9.72. You’ll also be able to grab titles like “The Walking Dead” and “True Detective”—full box sets for about $10 each.
Clearly, Black Friday has changed quite a bit over the past 20 years, but our love of shopping will never end.
From the latest tech to the hottest fashions and everything in between, the editors at The Smart Shopper are in the know and ready share their expertise. Check out our posts on shopping secrets and product trends for those who live for a little retail therapy.