Black Friday by the Numbers

Shoppers rush into a mall early on Black Friday morning in 2013. The day became a major consumer and media event in the 2000s though there are doubts over its future importance. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Shoppers rush into a mall early on Black Friday morning in 2013. The day became a major consumer and media event in the 2000s though there are doubts over its future importance. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Americans will turn out by the millions this Friday for the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Here is a look at the key metrics and history of the annual consumer spending spree.

This week, students will relish a week off classes and enjoy family and good food on the Thanksgiving holiday. But most will also spend at least some of their time shopping. Since the Great Depression era, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the holiday season. But in the past two decades, it has developed into an annual ritual for retailers of every stripe.

Here is a synopsis of what could arguably be considered America’s greatest annual celebration of the consumer economy.

From Four-Day Weekend to Shopping Holiday

Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, giving many corporate and government employees a four-day weekend. While traditionally a time to enjoy family and begin decorating for the holiday season, the weekend has developed into a multifaceted retail extravaganza, composed of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

The most common story of how the term “Black Friday” came into use is that stores that were “in the red,” or operating at a loss, throughout the year could move “in the black,” or operating at a profit, if they made significant sales on that day. The term was not in widespread use until the late 1980s.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Black Friday sales began earlier and earlier, with stores opening at 7 a.m., then 5 a.m., then 3 a.m., then midnight. In the past decade, many retailers, such as Best Buy, JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears and Target, have opened during the evening or afternoon of Thanksgiving Day itself – at least in most states. Three New England states (Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) prohibit stores from opening on Thanksgiving as part of blue laws that prohibit economic activity on holidays.

In 2003, Black Friday officially became the busiest shopping day of the year, a distinction that would continue for more than a decade. The future of the day is mired in doubt, with last year seeing the lowest level of participation since 2011. Recent data indicate that Super Saturday, immediately before Christmas, is now the leading shopping day of the year.

Black Friday Facts and Figures

74.2 MILLION – The number of people shopping on Black Friday in 2015

35 MILLION – The number who shopped on Thanksgiving Day in 2015

102 MILLION – The number of people who shopped in stores during the entire Thanksgiving weekend in 2015, which came in below the estimate of 135.7 million shoppers

$299.60 – The average amount spent per Thanksgiving weekend shopper in 2015

$67.5 BILLION – The total amount shoppers spent on Black Friday in 2015

7.95 MILLION – The number of unique visitors Amazon.com had last Black Friday. Walmart.com was a distant second, at 4.15 million

$16.2 BILLION – The total amount spent by shoppers at small retailers on Small Business Saturday in 2015. Founded by American Express in 2010, the day is observed as a way to honor the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit.

3.6% – The expected increase in holiday spending this year that the National Retail Federation is forecasting. Though it remains to be seen how much of a role Black Friday will play, as many retailers are offering discounts well in advance of the day and there is also continued growth in online sales

Not Into Black Friday? Try Green Friday

The day after Thanksgiving isn’t only a time for retail bargains. California State Parks, the California State Parks Foundation and Save the Redwoods League is sponsoring free vehicle day-use passes at 116 California parks, including Orange County state beaches. More information is available online.

More on Sales Careers

Do you work in retail and wonder how it can help you in your quest for a career? Gain insight on sales careers through Mihaylo’s Sales Leadership Center. For more information, stop by SGMH 5357B, send an email to slc@fullerton.edu  or visit them online. For a full list of center events this semester, see their fall calendar.

About dcoats

I'm Daniel Coats, a CSU Fullerton Communications graduate student
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