3 Data-Driven Insights into Black Friday Foot Traffic 2017

by Brian Field on 11-08-17

Retailers, grab your notepads! With Thanksgiving Weekend around the corner, it’s high time to take note of ShopperTrak’s favorite Black Friday foot traffic trends for 2017.

To devise our top three takeaways, ShopperTrak’s team analyzed 6 years of historical Black Friday foot traffic data. In order to prepare for the anticipated crowds, be sure to analyze your own stores’ historical Black Friday foot traffic – you can use ShopperTrak’s foot traffic prediction guide to help!

Insight #1: Black Friday foot traffic in 2017 may not exceed 2016 traffic, but Black Friday will still be the busiest day… by far black friday foot traffic, black weekekndA major lesson learned in 2016 was that even though Black Friday traffic might appear to be down YOY, the 2017 decrease may not be as substantial as first impressions make it seem. (Here’s an in-depth explanation of why this POV is worth considering.).

This is, in part, because consumers tend to view Black Friday and Thanksgiving night as a single shopping event. Meaning, shoppers don’t wonder whether they should shop on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Rather, they hit the stores at a single point during the entire day-and-a-half period.

When considering the entire period from Black Friday through Sunday, a greater dispersion of traffic allows for both better planning and an optimal STAR throughout Black Weekend. Yet, be prepared to have all hands on deck for Black Friday, as it’s predicted to be the busiest day of the entire 2017 holiday season.

Insight #2: The busiest hour of Black Weekend is expected to fall on Friday afternoon

black friday foot traffic, thanksgiving day

Assuming Black Friday foot traffic trends remain in line with what we’ve seen over the past few years, Black Friday 2017 will likely see the highest traffic volume between 3 – 4 PM local time. This would make 2017 the fifth consecutive year during which Black Friday traffic peaked at 3 PM.

When thinking about scheduling on Black Friday, it’s best to have the most associates on the floor during the hours leading up to 3 PM. As shown in the graph above, the common pattern across the past four years shows that stores will be nearly as busy between 2-3 PM as they will be between 3-4 PM. Traffic begins to decline for the day at 4 PM.

Insight #3: Outlet malls exhibit a different traffic pattern

Historical data indicates that outlet malls will also experience a traffic peak between 3-4 PM on Black Friday. Additionally, outlet malls should see another peak, of nearly the same size, around 11 PM on Thanksgiving night. In 2016, outlet malls saw  a +12% increase in total traffic volume between the 11 PM hour on Thanksgiving Day and the 3 PM hour on Black Friday.

This two-spike trend is likely spurred by the time that different types of retailers choose to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. While non-outlet retailers increasingly opt to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, outlet retailers may be more likely to select a different strategy.

Of course, each outlet center’s hours of operation on Thanksgiving Day will play a role in determining whether the 2017 trends match the 2016 pattern.

Like this content? Check back to our blog after Black Friday to see how our predictions hold up! We’ll have your Black Friday traffic report, as well as a deep-dive into traffic levels and trends for the entire holiday weekend. Happy Shopping!

Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.