What Store Traffic Data Reveals about Black Friday Shopping Trends

by Bill McCarthy on 11-22-16

Just in time for Black Friday, which is ShopperTrak’s predicted busiest shopping day of the year, we’ve conducted an analysis of historical Black Friday shopping trends in order to glean meaningful takeaways for retailers. Our top three insights are revealed below.

Before diving in, it’s important to call out one major theme we’ve noted in our YOY Black Friday shopping trend reports (see insight #1 below): since 2013, we’ve seen a marked difference in traffic patterns over the holiday weekend. Specifically, the number of Thanksgiving Day shoppers has increased substantially. With stores increasingly opening well before midnight on Thanksgiving Day, midnight shopping numbers on Black Friday have decreased as shoppers have followed retailers’ leads by flocking to stores before the clock strikes 12.black-friday-shopping-trends-2011-15

With this overarching Black Friday shopping trend in mind, let’s take a deeper look at YOY Thanksgiving weekend trends from 2013-2015…

 Insight #1: Black Friday traffic is down, but it’s still the busiest day… by far

Consumers tend to view Black Friday and Thanksgiving night as a single shopping event: shoppers don’t wonder whether they should shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Rather, whether when they should over the entire day-and-a-half period.

Though Thanksgiving Day sales primarily pull shopper traffic from Black Friday, they also help to disperse traffic across the entire holiday weekend. But this is relatively positive news for retailers, as a greater dispersion of traffic allows for better planning and therefore better STARs throughout the weekend. When both planning for and analyzing Thanksgiving weekend traffic, retailers should take into account shoppers’ unified view of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping.

Looking for more help with planning to accommodate  Black Friday shopping trends? Check out our traffic prediction guide for tips and best practices for predicting holiday traffic.

Insight #2: Busiest hour of the weekend remains the same in 2013, 2014, & 2015

For three straight years, we’ve witnessed the same Black Friday shopping trend: most shoppers have run to the stores between 3 – 4 PM on Black Friday. Why? There’s no clear-cut answer, but it’s possible that rampant media coverage of doorbuster AM deals has deterred potential shoppers from waking up for the morning chaos. Nonetheless, the data speaks for itself: mid-afternoon on Black Friday is undoubtedly the busiest shopping period of Thanksgiving weekend.


In fact, when thinking about staffing, it’s likely best to have the most associates on the floor during the hours leading up to 3 PM. Our data shows that, on average across all three years, stores will be nearly as busy between 2 – 3 PM as they will be between 3 – 4 PM — the former period only saw a 1.04% decrease in traffic from the latter period. However, between 4 -5 PM, our data shows 4.01% decrease in traffic, when compared to the busiest 3 – 4 PM timeslot.

Insight #3: The best time to shop (and re-stock) is in the morning

Because our Black Friday shopping trends indicate that all hours on Black Friday have historically seen a substantial amount of traffic, the most practical (and least crowded!) time to shop is on Saturday or Sunday morning – between 6 – 11 AM, ideally.

Retailers should use this time to re-stock, take inventory, and prepare the store for the larger mid-afternoon crowds, which will undoubtedly be in full-swing between 2 – 8 PM. Additionally, our data indicates that overall traffic is significantly lower on Sunday than it is on Saturday – indeed, we see a 41.1% drop-off in total traffic from Saturday to Sunday, some of which maybe be due to shortened operating hours.

Like this content? Check back after Black Friday to see whether our prediction was correct and if Black Friday was actually the busiest day of the holiday season. 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 Thanksgiving!

Read more posts by Bill McCarthy

Bill McCarthy is the General Manager of the Americas, in which he oversees regional efforts pertaining to the Traffic Insights business unit.