Black Friday, the American retail phenomenon where hordes of competitive shoppers fight—sometimes literally—for the best deal is starting earlier than ever this year. But do more days to shop mean this big economic tradition is getting even bigger? Or will trends like the decline of brick and mortar stores slow shoppers down?
Let’s break this Thanksgiving custom down by the numbers.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 174 million US consumers went shopping online or in-store last year over Thanksgiving weekend, which spans Thanksgiving Day through to Cyber Monday. That’s about 70% of adults in the US. Sixty six million people shopped on the Friday alone. And while the number of people choosing to do their shopping from their phones reached record highs last year, Walmart is still trying to lure in foot traffic by giving away millions of free cookies and coffee.
Last year, American shoppers spent a record $5 billion online in the space of 24 hours. US retailers generated $7.9 billion in online sales from both Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2017, which was up 17.9% from the year before, according to research by Adobe Analytics.
This holiday season, which runs from November to December, is set to be even bigger than last year. Consumers surveyed by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics said that they would spend an average of $1,007.24 during the holiday season in 2018, which is up 4.1% from what they said they would spend in 2017. Collectively, US consumers are expected to spend in excess of $1 trillion from November to December.
With the hundreds of deals available and millions of people shopping, it’s hard to take stock of exactly how much people have historically saved. One look at Target and Walmart’s attractive deals on tech items, with discounts of more than $100, makes it clear how much you might be able to save on each item—but even discounted items add up.
Impulse buying, for instance, might mean you actually spend more than you save (and that might be the motivation behind Walmart’s snack stunt). Moreover, discounts in 2017 were actually slightly smaller than in 2016. In fact, Black Friday might not even be the best time of the holiday season to go shopping, US News reports, since prices can drop even lower in the lead-up to Christmas.
Officially, Black Friday starts and ends on Nov. 23. But plenty of store are starting sales early. Walmart’s online Black Friday deals will go live at 10pm ET on Nov. 21—but the moment that stores open their doors is still a major occasion. Most stores also open on Thanksgiving evening. Some retailers have provided more information than others, but here’s what we know of Walmart hours in-store, plus some other major retailers so far (all times are local).
Walmart: Operational hours as usual on Thanksgiving, but Black Friday deals available 6pm onward
Target: 5pm to 1am on Thanksgiving, opens 7am on Black Friday
Best Buy: 5pm to 1am on Thanksgiving, opens 8am on Black Friday
Macy’s: 5pm to 2am on Thanksgiving, 6am to 10pm on Black Friday
Ulta: 6pm to 2am on Thanksgiving, 6am to 10pm on Black Friday
JC Penney: Doors open 2pm on Thanksgiving, Black Friday TBD
Retailers hire a lot of new employees during the holiday season since extra hands are crucial during the shopping frenzy. Target announced it would be hiring an extra 120,000 seasonal employees this year, which is a 20% increase from last year. Macy’s said it would hire 7,000 temporary workers in the run-up to Christmas, and 80,000 temporary workers for the holidays as a whole.
This might seem like a lot of job opportunity, but the reality is that these workers are often working long hours with little pay. Moreover, while some people need the overtime pay, many workers have protested against being called to work on Black Friday.
This year, Walmart’s app will feature pins to direct shoppers to “the top eight Black Friday deals” in-store, Business Insider reports, but that sounds like a lot of concentrated foot traffic—and even a safety hazard. Black Friday crowds can sometimes become dangerous mobs.
According to the website Black Friday Death Count, there have so far been 10 deaths and 111 injuries on Black Friday in the US. This includes the death of a Walmart worker during a stampede in 2013 and a shooting in New Jersey in 2016.