A collage of Target Black Friday ads from the 1980s and 1990s

Set the Dial to 1986 as Team Members Look Back on Decades of Black Friday Fun

Both our guests and team members will tell you—there’s simply nothing like the rush of a Black Friday shopping event at Target! Each year, our teams celebrate the season together as they prep our stores for the big day, and welcome the crowds as they stream through our doors on the hunt for doorbuster deals.

This decades-old tradition is a familiar one for Sandy Green and Dave Parnell, team members at our store in Columbia, Missouri. The two, who’ve been friends since high school, haven’t missed working a Black Friday at Target in 32 years, and they’ve seen it all. Take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to their first Black Friday in 1986 …    

Dave and Sandy stand back-to-back in front of a decorated tree in their storeDo you remember your first Black Friday at Target? What’s changed over the years?
Sandy: Since day one, people have been lining up for deals—but over the years, I’ve noticed a lot more families and friends coming out to enjoy the fun of the moment. We get large groups where everyone has a list and they’ll split up to shop and then meet in a certain spot to get hot chocolate and celebrate. It’s a great party, and the chance to get some holiday shopping done, all at once.

Dave: It amazes me how much technology has changed since my first few Black Fridays. Early on, teams used pagers and beepers to communicate, and maybe a few had the earliest cell phones—you know, the ones shaped like a brick? Later, we got walkie-talkies. And now, we have these handheld devices that can look up products, and even help guests check out or place orders from anywhere in the store.

What kinds of deals were the biggest draws?
Dave: I used to work the sales floor and help carry large items out to cars on Black Friday. Back in the ’80s, Target had these special ‘three-hour deals’ on color TVs that were so popular they’d sell out almost immediately. We’d always have a ton of them, but guests couldn’t get enough—I carried so many of those! And in the mid-’90s, any deals on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System were huge too.

Two ads for 3-hour special deals from the 1980s

From the Target Corporate Archives: Pages from Target’s Black Friday ads from 1988.

Sandy: TVs and electronics have always been popular. And of course, there’s the toys.

Ooh, the ‘it’ toys! What are some of the hot toy deals you remember guests lining up for?
Dave:
There were a few years in the ’80s and early ’90s where all the kids wanted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Later it was Power Rangers. Remember the Tickle Me Elmo craze? Elmo toys have been popular ever since. And sometimes we’d have holiday-themed plushes—kids loved the year we had “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

Two Black Friday ads for toy deals from the 1980s

From the Target Corporate Archives: Pages from Target’s Black Friday toy ads from 1987 (left) and 1989 (right).

Sandy: I remember when Cabbage Patch Kids were popular in the mid-’80s—kids loved those because they could get a doll that looked just like them. One year there were these commercials for the Spirograph that showed all these wild designs it could make, so that’s what a lot of parents came looking for. And now, a lot of those retro toys and games are making a comeback. Whatever the toy of the moment is, it’s fun to help guests find that perfect gift for their kids.

So what happens behind the scenes in the days leading up to Black Friday? Any team traditions?
Sandy:
I work on setting up shelves and displays, figuring out which products go where and filling holes. It’s one of the busiest times of the year, and we’re all moving fast, so our leaders usually make some fun moments for us. I’m retiring in December, so this will be my last Black Friday working with the team. I’ll really miss everyone.

The Columbia store team poses together in the Wondershop holiday display in their storeDave: I work with a team in the backroom of the store, pulling products out to the sales floor to keep shelves stocked. The day before Black Friday, as we set up the displays, sometimes the team puts on music while we work. We have fun throughout the year too—in fact we just had a big celebration a few years ago in honor of our store’s 30th anniversary. Sandy and I both helped get this store ready for its grand opening back in 1986.

What’s been your favorite part of working at Target all these years?
Dave:
The close relationships we build with our guests and communities over time. We have one guest who’s been coming in regularly for at least 20 years to buy bulk supplies for the local veterinary hospital. She’s gotten to know our whole team over the years and appreciates our help getting everything she needs.

Sandy: Helping guests find things is one of my favorite parts of the job—Black Friday and all year round. It’s fun to see a kid’s eyes light up, or a guest get so excited when we track down that one thing they really want. I once helped a woman search our entire store for this coffee mug she’d been looking everywhere for because her daughter really wanted it. Sometimes guests are so happy they give me a hug!

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