The Washington Post

Cyber Monday won’t kill Black Friday for a long time

Merited or not, people who think about the health of the economy worry a lot about the volume of retail sales during the weekend after Thanksgiving. These days, though, there are a ton of ways to measure it: Total dollar value on just Black Friday, or Thanksgiving as well? Or the whole weekend? What about foot traffic in malls, and dollars per person? And where does online shopping fit into all this? To make matters worse, private data companies and trade associations track the numbers differently, resulting in a holiday blizzard of trend metrics.

In brief, the numbers for this year were good: ShopperTrak reported that total sales increased 2.3 percent from last year, to $12.3 billion on Thursday and Black Friday combined. According to Adobe, online sales on Cyber Monday jumped 16 percent from last year to $2.29 billion. To see what all this looks like over time, let's turn to the National Retail Federation and the Census Bureau, which have some handy graphing tools.

Overall, the shopping story has been relentlessly positive since 2009, with retail sales growing at about the same rate that they did pre-recession:

Those are seasonally adjusted, though. If you look at the peaks around the holiday season, those are getting higher too:

That's partly because shopping is more concentrated around Thanksgiving, with more adults are saying they plan to go buy stuff during the holiday weekend, according to the NRF's survey data:

People are getting more into it. (National Retail Federation)

Turning to e-commerce, sales are also increasing year by year. IBM's data show how we shop online over the course of Cyber Monday, with the total volume rising over the past 3 years:


The growth rate, however, is not exponential. Here's the total volume of e-commerce:

(Data from U.S. Census Bureau)

And here's the rate of growth:

Online sales are also still a tiny percentage of overall volume -- only 6 percent, according to the Census Bureau. That means that despite prognostications of Black Friday's death, it'll be a long time before they actually overtake brick and mortar sales. At the rate they're growing now, about 4 percent market share over a decade, it could even be a century:

Online sales are gaining, but at a moderate rate. (Census Bureau)

So don't get too confused by all the numbers. Overall, we're steadily buying more stuff, which is good for the economy, even if it's not as good for our souls.

Lydia DePillis is a reporter focusing on labor, business, and housing. She previously worked at The New Republic and the Washington City Paper. She's from Seattle.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat
Next Story
Brad Plumer · December 3, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.