Is Black Friday the most important day for retail?

Shopping on Black Friday

Promotions and lots of discounts. That is how we know Black Friday. Over the years, this hype has grown in popularity to such an extent that it is time to take a closer look at how important Black Friday really is for retail.

There is some uncertainty about the origin of the name Black Friday. It probably started in Philadelphia in 1965 as a reference to the huge crowds in the city the day after Thanksgiving. The term Black Saturday, which is often used in Europe when a lot of people drive off to their holiday, is a similar reference. 

Another theory however was introduced in 1981. It stated that this day was the first that stores came out of the "red numbers" and therefore in black. Today Black Friday is seen as the start of purchases for the December holiday month.

Over the years, department stores, stores and web shops have tried to use the huge popularity of Black Friday in the US to boost their own sales. Since 2013 this has also been the case in various countries in Europe. Although offering promotions and low prices sounds like a loss to many stores, it can also be a strategic move. Selected items are offered with substantial discounts to make way for new items that can be sold well during the holidays.

Footfall in the UK
The streets and shopping centres in the UK are traditionally busier with the start of December. If you really want to know if footfall is increasing on Black Friday, it's primarily interesting to see how many shoppers are counted on an average Friday. To make a clear overview, we look at the average of all Fridays each year and compare this with "Black Friday" of that same year. This can be seen in the graph on the right. There is a slight increase in footfall on an average Friday in the UK. If we look at Black Friday footfall is significantly higher than the average Friday.

Based on the above, we can already conclude that Black Friday is an important day for retailers and shopping centres. However, there is another important day we do not want to forget: the Saturday after Black Friday. Footfall data shows that in recent years, on average, considerably more visitors are being measured on this day compared to an average Saturday, as shown in this graph. It might be worth extending the Black Friday deals until Saturday.