By the Numbers: Black Friday Shopping Facts

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Black Friday is here again. Whether that term fills you with joy or terror, it has become a part of the American lexicon. It’s a day when many shoppers find great sales; it has also resulted in stressed retail workers, epic traffic jams, brawls and even deaths. Now, what began as a uniquely American experience has spread to other countries. Here are some numbers to ponder about this day as you wait in line for that half-off Black Friday sale.

Shoppers pack Macy’s in New York City on Black Friday. © Diariocritico de Venezuela

Shoppers pack Macy’s in New York City on Black Friday. © Diariocritico de Venezuela


Black Friday first used as term to describe a day of shopping

The first known use of Black Friday dates to 1869, describing a financial panic in the U.S. Through the years it has been used to refer to Fridays struck by various disasters, from devastating storms to riots and massacres. So how did such a dark term come to describe a day of theoretically happy shopping?

The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving have long been the start of the traditional Christmas shopping season. By 1961, huge crowds and traffic congestion on those two days led Philadelphia police to begin referring to the days as “Black Friday” and “Black Saturday.” Local merchants hated the negative connotations of the term, fearing it would drive away customers. So according to, they launched a huge PR campaign to christen the days “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday.” Those terms obviously never caught on. By the 1980s, the use of Black Friday had become widespread in the U.S.


74.2 Million

Number of Americans who shopped on Black Friday in 2015

Black Friday is still the biggest shopping day of the year, but the creep of big sales into Thanksgiving Day and over the holiday weekend has diluted its one-day sales impact. The National Retail Federation reported that 151 million people shopped online or in-person over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend in 2015, spending an average of $299.60 each. The NRF reports more shoppers appear interested in online deals than ever before; 103 million people say they shopped online over the holiday weekend in 2015, compared to 102 million who visited stores.



Number of states that ban stores from opening on Thanksgiving

Are you the type of person who gleefully rushes out to a store on Thanksgiving to take advantage of an early Black Friday sale? Or are you someone who boycotts stores that make employees work on the holiday? In the past few years, a growing number of stores opened on Thanksgiving, some as early as the afternoon. Whether you like the trend or not, three states ban the practice. Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island ban most retailers from opening on Thanksgiving because of “blues laws.” It’s interesting to note that the pendulum appears to have swung sharply in the opposite direction as of 2016; many retailers are now advertising they will remain closed on Thanksgiving in consideration of their employees.



Injuries related to Black Friday shopping between 2006-2014

In the most notable incident, 20 shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Walmart were injured when an angry shopper pepper-sprayed them. But the danger is not confined to the stores themselves. A number of injuries have been attributed to stabbings and shootings over parking spaces. And drunk drivers have injured shoppers in the parking lot.



Deaths related to Black Friday shopping between 2006-2014

You’ve seen the news reports and watched the videos on social media, showing shoppers brawling over sales items, parking spaces, and other issues. The website reports there were seven deaths related to Black Friday between 2006 and 2014. In the most notable death, one that brought the potential dangers of this one-day shopping frenzy into the national spotlight, a worker at a Long Island Walmart died in 2008 after being trampled by shoppers rushing into the store. That same year, two women got into a fistfight near the checkout line at a California Toys ‘R’ Us. Two men with the women pulled out handguns and shot each other to death in the store.

Such deadly incidents have been extremely rare. But if you’re going out, use common sense and courtesy. Don’t break in line, or cut somebody off trying to get a parking spot 50 feet closer to the store.

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