Skip to content

Black Friday

Views of Early Black Friday Shopping at a Best Buy Store
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Updated on

For most of the last decade, Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, has been America’s biggest shopping day — an emblem of opportunity and excess. But contemporary shopping trends have watered down Black Friday’s appeal for consumers. Retailers offer bargains for a whole weekend or more to avoid the race-to-the bottom tactics that had once been the staple of that day. Other shopping holidays are now competing for the biggest-day crown. Still, Black Friday shopping has become as much an American holiday tradition as eating leftover turkey.

The total number of shoppers over the five-day stretch from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday was 165 million, 9 million fewer than in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. The average shopper spent $313 in that time, down from last year’s $335. Still, online sales were strong. Adobe estimates that this year the five-day stretch from Thanksgiving through Monday will account for almost one fifth of all online holiday revenue. This continued a shift away from retail stores; 2015 marked the first time online shoppers outnumbered in-store shoppers. In the hopes of drawing more customers to the mall for door-buster deals the minute they put their forks down, many store chains, including Walmart, Target and Best Buy, were open for part of Thanksgiving Day. Yet several retailers, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, the nation’s largest mall, decided not to open on Thanksgiving at all. For merchants, expanding Black Friday is designed to persuade customers to open wallets as early in the Christmas shopping season as possible. In fact, the NRF attributes some of the Thanksgiving shopping drop-off to the fact that sales now begin right after Halloween. Retailers still expect that the strong economy will have consumers spending more this Christmas season. Meanwhile, other shopping holidays have been stealing the limelight. Alibaba turned Singles Day, a quirky Nov. 11 celebration for young Chinese, into almost $31 billion in online sales this year. Amazon Prime Day, first held in 2015 to mark the online retailer’s 20th anniversary, generated for than $4 billion on July 16.