But in recent years, the stereotypical image we have of Black Friday has been eroding: The sales are starting earlier and running longer. Plenty of consumers are nabbing the deals online from the comfort of home. And some shoppers are now sitting out the sales altogether in protest of the intrusion on Thanksgiving.
So what do Black Thursday and Black Friday even look like in 2014? How will people be shopping and what will they be spending?
Researchers unleash a deluge of surveys and studies at this time of year that are aimed at answering these questions. Here’s a roundup of some of their most interesting findings.
Black Friday is not really a one-day event anymore.
The National Retail Federation has found that 61 percent of shoppers, or 140.1 million of them, plan to shop online or in stores at some point over the holiday weekend. This is roughly comparable to the number of shoppers that said they’d be going out last year. It’s clear these shoppers will spread out their purchasing throughout the holiday weekend, likely because the deals stretch for much longer than a single day.
People plan to spend more this Thanksgiving weekend than last year.
A survey by consultancy Deloitte found that holiday shoppers’ planned spending for the holiday weekend has been inching up since 2011. That finding comes as lower gas prices and a lower unemployment rate seem to be boosting consumers’ spending and confidence. Another consultancy, Accenture, found in its holiday shopping survey that 25 percent of shoppers said they planned to spend more on their holiday shopping overall this year, compared to 20 percent who said so in 2013.
Hardly anyone’s waking up at the crack of dawn these days to get their shopping fix.
Remember those images you used to see of poorly-rested shoppers groggily standing in line before sunrise? Those days are over. Big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Best Buy and Target kick off their in-store sales on Thursday evening at 5 or 6 p.m. And many major malls open at midnight Friday, inviting shoppers into specialty stores such as Gap, Loft and Urban Outfitters. In other words, most stores now open their doors at night, meaning Black Friday is now more about staying up past your bedtime than it is about setting your alarm. This survey data, collected by Deloitte, illustrates this well:
Online shoppers beware: Cyber Monday might not be your best day to strike.
Cyber Monday is supposed to be the banner day for online deals, but this chart from cloud computing company Akamai Technologies shows why you might not want to hold out for that day. Akamai measured the daily peak pageviews per minute to retail Web sites during Thanksgiving week last year. And while Cyber Monday is indeed the peak traffic day, note how closely Thanksgiving and Black Friday compare to it. It’s a sign that some merchandise could be out of stock or picked over by the time Cyber Monday rolls around.
There may be uproar about stores opening on Thanksgiving, but people are growing more comfortable doing online shopping that day.
Akamai also notes that while last year’s Thanksgiving Day registered more sustained Web traffic throughout the day than seen in 2012, you still see a distinctive pullback during the late afternoon and early evening, when people are most likely to be gathered around the dinner table.