Is Black Friday the biggest shopping day of the year?

The Black Friday Myth

­Y­ou can always expect to deal with jam-packed stores, long lines and frenzied shoppers in search of Black Friday deals. And as far as the number of bodies that walk in and out of stores, Black Friday hauls them in. That heavy Black Friday foot traffic translates to high dollar profits, accounting for 4.5 to 5 percent of all holiday sales [source: Credeur and Riddell]. In 2014, the average shopper spent about $381 over Thanksgiving weekend; total retail spending was about $51 billion.

That's an undeniably large number. But it isn't the largest of the season. In fact, Black Friday isn't the busiest shopping day of the year normally, despite what popular opinion holds [source: National Retail Federation]. Instead, the holiday shopping procrastinators win out: The highest sales day of the year usually strikes the Saturday before Christmas [source: International Council of Shopping Centers].

How is that possible if shoppers line up in front of stores at the crack of dawn on Black Friday? Customer volume goes through the roof, but sales don't follow in suit. Surveys have shown that despite the steady streams of people flowing into stores on Black Friday, not all of them drive home with trunks full of holiday presents. For instance, one study conducted by researchers at Indiana University found a consistently low rate of purchase among Black Friday shoppers [source: Krafft and Mantrala].

A higher percentage of those shoppers bought items the following day. Internet shopping and early previews of Black Friday sales leaked online may also trim the amount of transactions that day as people have more options for tracking down the best bang for their holiday buck.

If lining up at 4 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving isn't your style, you certainly aren't alone. But if you think that waiting until a couple days before Christmas to do your shopping will help you avoid the swarming masses, think again.

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  • "Black Friday Shopping Momentum Continues Through Saturday." ShopperTrak. Nov. 25, 2007. (Nov. 18, 2008)
  • "Consumers to Spend an Average of $817 on Holiday Purchases." International Council of Shopping Centers. Nov. 20, 2002. (Nov. 18, 2008)
  • ­Credeur, Mary Jane and Riddell, Kelly. "U.S. Sales Rose 8.3% Day After Thanksgiving, ShopperTrak Says." Bloomberg. Nov. 24, 2007. (Nov. 18, 2008)
  • "Holiday Shoppers Planning to Make a Budget and Check It Twice, According to NRF Survey." National Retail Federation. Oct. 16, 2008. (Nov. 18, 2008)
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