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Black Friday History and Statistics

Article - Black Friday History and Statistics
Article - Black Friday History and Statistics
BlackFriday.com Staff

BlackFriday.com Staff

Updated January 10, 2019

A look back at how Black Friday began, how it's become so popular and how much shoppers are spending.

For millions of people Black Friday is the time to do some serious Christmas shopping -- even before the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone! Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving, and it's one of the major shopping days of the year in the United States, falling anywhere between November 23 and 29. While it's not recognized as an official U.S. holiday, many employees have the day off, except those working in retail.

In which U.S. city did the term Black Friday originate

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia. In the 1960's, police in Philadelphia griped about the congested streets, clogged with motorists and pedestrians, calling it “Black Friday.” In a non-retail sense, it also describes a financial crisis of 1869: a stock market catastrophe set off by gold spectators who tried and failed to corner the gold market, causing the market to collapse and stocks to plummet.

Why is it called Black Friday?

The term “Black Friday” (in the retail sense) was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit. Ever since the start of the modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.

Why did Black Friday become so popular?

As retailers began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, even better than those last-minute Christmas sales. Some retailers put their items up for sale on the morning of Thanksgiving, or email online specials to consumers days or weeks before the actual event. The most shopped for items are electronics and popular toys, as these may be the most drastically discounted. However, prices are slashed on everything from home furnishings to apparel.

Black Friday is a long day, with many retailers opening up the afternoon of Thanksgiving to hordes of people waiting anxiously outside the windows. There are numerous doorbuster deals and loss leaders – prices so low the store may not make a profit – to entice shoppers. Most large retailers post their Black Friday ad scans, coupons and offers online beforehand to give consumers time to find out about sales and plan their purchases. Other companies take a different approach, waiting until the last possible moment to release their Black Friday ads, hoping to create a buzz and keep customers eagerly checking back for an announcement.

More and more, consumers are choosing to shop online, not wanting to wait outside in the early morning chill with a crush of other shoppers or battle over the last most-wanted item. Often, many people show up for a small number of limited-time "door-buster" deals, such as large flat-screen televisions or laptops for a few hundred dollars. Since these coveted items sell out quickly, quite a few shoppers leave the store empty handed. The benefit of online shopping is that you will know right away if the gaming system or pressure cooker you want is out of stock, and can easily find another one without having to travel from store to store. Also, many online retailers have pre-Black Friday or special Thanksgiving sales, so you may not even have to wait until the big day to save.

Black Friday statistics

Check out these numbers to see just how big of a sales day Black Friday is.

Black Friday shopping and spending

  • In 2018, Black Friday was still the most popuar shopping day of Thanksgiving Weekend, with 116 million saying they planned to shop that day, vs. 76 million on Cyber Monday (Source: NRF).
  • Black Friday 2018 (Thanksgiving Day plus Black Friday) raked in $9.9 billion in online sales. That's $6.2 billion spent on Black Friday and $3.7 billion spent on Thanksgiving. That's a 19.7% increase over 2017 (Source: Adobe Analytics)
  • Black Friday 2017 (Thanksgiving Day plus Black Friday) raked in $7.9 billion in online sales. That’s $5.03 billion spent on Black Friday and $2.87 billion spent on Thanksgiving. This spending level is up 17.9% from 2016. (Source: Adobe Analytics)
  • 14.8 million online transactions were processed on Black Friday 2018 and 13.7 million were processed on Thanksgiving (Source: Hitwise).
  • 13 million online transactions were processed on Black Friday 2017 and 12.5 million were processed on Thanksgiving. (Source: Hitwise)
  • More than 165 million Americans shopped on Black Friday weekend in 2018 (Source: NRF). 174 million Americans shopped on Black Friday weekend 2017 (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) (Source: NRF).
  • Average per-person spending was $313.29 during Thanksgiving weekend 2018 ($217 spent on gifts) (Source: NRF). That's down from the average per-person spending for Thanksgiving weekend 2017 -- $335.47, and $251 of that was for gifts. Older millennials (age 25 to 34) spent the most per person ($419.52) (Source: NRF)
  • Average per-person spending for Thanksgiving weekend 2016 was $289.19 -- and $214 of that was for gifts. (Source: NRF)

Black Friday online vs. in stores

  • During Black Friday weekend 2018, 89 million people shopped both online and in stores. That's up more than 40% from 2017, when 64 million shopped both online and in stores. The multi-channel shopper outspent the single-channel shopper by an average of $93 in 2018 (Source: NRF).
  • In 2018, Buy Online Pick Up In Store features saw a 50% year-over-year increase during Thanksgiving weekend (Source: Adobe).
  • In 2018, in-store shopping on Thanksgiving/Black Friday saw a 1% decrease, compared to 2017 (Source: Shopper Trak)
  • Heading into Thanksgiving weekend 2018, 68% of shoppers said they'd be shopping online on Black Friday; 17% said they'd hit stores later in the day to avoid crowdss; and 15% said they'd line up early to wait for stores to open (Source: BlackFriday.com).
  • Heading into the 2017 holiday shopping season, slightly more (44%) consumers said they planned to shop online on Black Friday 2017 than in store (42%). (Source: Offers.com)

Top Black Friday products

  • Heading into Black Friday 2018, consumers said they were looking for deals on the following: Clothing (23%); tech (22%); toys (18%); smart-home gadgets (16%); gift cards (12%); and travel (9%). (Source: BlackFriday.com)

Top Black Friday retailers

  • Amazon and Walmart were the top choices for Black Friday 2018 deal hunters: 29% of consumers said Amazon would have the best deals, and 25% said Walmart would (Source: BlackFriday.com)
  • Amazon toook 47.8% of all online transactions on Thanksgiving 2018 and 56.8% on Black Friday 2018 (Source: Hitwise)
  • Amazon took 45.1% of all online transactions on Thanksgiving 2017 and 54.9% of all online transactions on Black Friday. (Source: Hitwise)
  • Walmart took 12% of all online transactions on Thanksgiving 2018 and 8.4% on Black Friday (Source: Hitwise)
  • Walmart took 13.9% off all online transactions on Thanksgiving 2017 and 8.8% of all online transactions on Black Friday (Source: Hitwise)

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Created May 2, 2018, last updated January 10, 2019

About the Author

BlackFriday.com Staff

The BlackFriday.com team tracks thousands of deals and narrows them down to the ones that are worth your time and money.

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