Thanksgiving Day Weekend Shopping by the Numbers

The list goes: Black Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, an official day of rest, and Cyber Monday. Or, in Walmart’s case, Cyber Week. During this tiny little block of just 5 days, US retailers – which depend on 4th Quarter sales to meet their annual sales goals - have traditionally gone from being financially in the red to being in the black.

That’s a lot of shopping.

In 2015, 151 million unique shoppers were in stores (online and in person) over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, spending an average of $300 each, according to the National Retail Federation.

Last year, 154 million shoppers spent $1.9 billion online on Thanksgiving Day alone, and another $3.3 billion on Black Friday. And that’s just the online sales. I hope you’re getting a pretty clear picture of why the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is so important for stores.


So, in this post, we’re going to talk about the upcoming holiday weekend to give you a bit more perspective on why brands and marketers are clamoring to get their products in front of buyers right now, as opposed to waiting until after Thanksgiving, which traditionally has been the time when brands start marketing holiday sales.

If you want to make sure your brands gets a piece of that $40+ billion holiday weekend pie, we can help you.


Back When Thanksgiving Day Was Just a Suggestion…

Not too long ago, there were no Black Fridays or Cyber Mondays. In fact, if you’re old enough to remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger was an action star (my mom had his workout album), Chuck Norris fought Bruce Lee, and the rest of The Expendables guys were also A-list action stars, you’re probably old enough to remember when Thanksgiving was about two things: Turkey and football.


We’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving for nearly 400 years in this country. The holiday that originally started out as a three-day festival of food, entertainment, and merriment only became the holiday that we celebrate every November in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving be held every year.

Super important, because at the time, the country was entrenched in a Civil War.

By the time the 1930s rolled around, retailers were using Thanksgiving Day as the benchmark to determine the start of the holiday shopping season. The unspoken code of the retailer was that no one would advertise Christmas deals before (and definitely not ON) Thanksgiving. And for years, no one did.

In 1952, our 32nd US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt officially made Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday of November, and that’s when things began to shift a bit around the holiday.


Then We Added Black Friday

Even though our collective consciousness may only remember Black Friday sales being a thing over the last twenty years or so, it has been used to refer to the day after Thanksgiving for decades. Legend has it, employers used to refer to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because so many workers would call in sick that day to give themselves a four-day weekend.

the-shelf-post-name-03.jpg reports that Philadelphia police referred to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because the crowds and traffic were so bad the police department had to go out in full force just to help people get to where they needed to go.

By the 1980s, retailers had re-appropriated the term to refer to the period in the year when they would no longer be “in the red” and would start turning a profit, essentially putting them “in the black.”

How ever it came to be called “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving Day has become synonymous with holiday shopping. Maybe it’s the way Santa rides in on his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, letting everyone know the time for giving has arrived. Whatever the history, the term “Black Friday” is now a phrase that strikes a bit of excitement and glee in the hearts of shoppers

I’ve never stood on line all night to buy a TV, but I woke up early one Black Friday morning to nab a great deal on a laptop - $149 PLUS a $50 gift card. I got there at 8AM and bought the last “Black Friday” laptop in the store. Score!


Then we Added Cyber Monday

In 2005, the National Retail Federation coined the term “Cyber Monday” in reference to the uptick in online sales that had been occurring for several years on the Monday after Thanksgiving Day. According to the NRF, 77 percent of online retailers were reporting substantial increases in online sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving.


Well, Monday was the day when people got back to their desks after the holiday weekend. It seems unfathomable now, but Pew Research recounts only 30 percent of Americans actually had high-speed Internet connections at home back in March 2005. The Monday after Thanksgiving was when working Americans had access to a high-speed connection again, and they would use their work computers to shop online for products that weren’t available in-store.


In 2005, recorded $484 million in Cyber Monday sales. In 2010, Cyber Monday crossed the billion-dollar mark. Last year, Cyber Monday became the biggest shopping day for e-commerce in US history. On Monday, November 28, 2016, Americans spent $3.45 billion shopping online,  12 percent more than we spent on Cyber Monday in 2015.  

By Tuesday, November 29, 2016, had already released a reports saying online sales for the 2016 holiday season had reached $40 billion, with mobile shopping accounting for a third half (31 percent) of all online sales.



And Small Business Saturday

As online sales increase, the foot traffic in stores decreases, which can be great for big retailers like Walmart. Over the years, has become an online marketplace, very much like Amazon. When you’re searching for products on Walmart’s site, you’re just as likely to be buying from Walmart as you are to be buying from another retailer through the portal.

View that here

While having access to so many products and companies through a single marketplace is convenient for folks like me who shop from home, it can be tough for small businesses and local brick-and-mortar stores to compete.

In 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday, to help promote local small businesses during that very first weekend of the shopping season. Small Business Saturday (identified on Instagram by the #ShopSmall hashtag) lands midway between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday, which was recognized by the US Senate as an official day just a year after it launched helped small, independent businesses generate $14.3 billion in 2014. In 2015, 95 million shoppers made holiday purchase from small businesses over the holiday weekend. By 2016, small businesses were generating $15.4 billion over the holiday weekend.


In this post (link here) from Instagrammer Denny Balmaceda, the vintage clothing enthusiast is promoting the #SHopSmall hashtag for American Express. The post is a picture of Denny shopping at @AmtVintage in Jersey City.


We’re Creeping Toward Making Black Thursday a Permanent Thing, Too

For the past few years, larger retailers have been opening on Thanksgiving Day for Black Thursday sales. While becoming more prevalent, the practice is still controversial. That’s because in order to accommodate customers for a Black Thursday sale, the store personnel has to eat fast or skip Thanksgiving celebrations altogether. So, Black Thursday is typically met with enthusiasm, whether for or against the practice.

There’s also Giving Tuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and Super Saturday, which is the last Saturday before Christmas, and Free Shipping Day, which is a week before the Big Day. It’s also important to note that the Christmas in July themed sales (like Amazon’s Prime Day in July) don’t count toward holiday spending, but they do impact holiday spending, as the frequency of these types of sales makes it a little less pressing for people to rush to the stores on Black Friday.

Hey, you know how some people refer to Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day as “Hallmark holidays”? You just got a crash course in “Walmart holidays.”


Who Is Shopping and What They’re Buying

When the stores open on Thanksgiving Day, shoppers start shopping. Most of the people who decide to go out to shop or stay in to shop do so because of the discounts. In fact, 100 percent of the weekend shoppers surveyed by consultancy Pwc said their purchases were fueled by holiday discounts.

It seems shopping in-store over the Thanksgiving Day weekend is a young people’s sports. Gen Z shopper are more likely to shop in-store than Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.

Only 37 percent of Boomers planned to go shopping on Black Friday, compared with 54 percent of Gen Xers.  On Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, Millennials (those between the ages of 21 and about 38) do as much shopping in-store as they do online.


According to Pwc, 60% of the Gen Zers surveyed use holiday shopping as an opportunity to socialize, choosing malls as their go-to shopping spot and (sorry, moms) preferring to spend that time with their friends and classmates rather than family.



What Folks Are Buying

I remember getting the old school Sears catalogs in the mail. As a kid, I would block out hours of my day to carefully comb the catalog and put red or blue circles around the toys I wanted. I would pass this info on to Santa (my dad) and he would proceed to systematically buy and gift-wrap the things from my list.

I’m not sure if he ever ordered from the Sears catalog. I know he bought quite a few gifts from the “company store” where he worked. He was an electrical engineer for the local utility company before he retired. And no, I don’t know why the light company had a store where employees could buy toys for their kids.  That’s just the way things were back then – awesome.


Today, I get text messages from my Gen Zer with links to products on Amazon. I click the links, look at the products, and order them. She’s usually requesting baking supplies, but when it’s not baking supplies, she wants devices, device accessories, and throwback sneakers.

As do a lot of other kids her age. While Americans are only going to spend about $5 a person for Thanksgiving dinner, the average shopper will spend $300 on holiday shopping over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and anywhere from $600 to $1200 total on holiday shopping this year.

Of course, spending varies by income and gift distribution varies by generation. Pwc estimates that shoppers with an annual household income under $60,000 will spend just over $500 on gifts this year, with about a quarter of their spending budget going toward travel.

Boomers, Gen Xers, and older Millennials will dedicate more than 60% of their holiday spending budgets to buying gifts for family members. Younger Millennails will spend about half their money on relatives, and older Gen Zers (ages 17 to 21) will only spend about a third of their budget on relatives.

Across the board, most holiday shoppers will hold back a portion of their holiday shopping budget to buy things for themselves. Adults will allocate 56 percent of their holiday spending toward gifts on friends and family, 28 percent to travel, and 16 percent toward entertainment.


For parents, clothing is at the top of the holiday shopping list (57 percent), followed by gift cards (51 percent), toys (43 percent), personal electronics (33 percent),  and accessories (29 percent). Most gift card purchases will be for restaurants and Amazon. Coincidentally, 44 percent of the Gen Xers surveyed and 51 percent of Boomers prefer to get gift cards for Christmas.

According to Consumer Reports, Gen Zers say they will spend their money on the following:

  • Clothing and apparel (71 percent)

  • Tablets and smartphones (42 percent)

  • Major electronics like TVs and computers (39 percent)

  • Videos console or games (35 percent)

  • Small home appliances like mixers and blenders (26 percent)

  • Jewelry (24 percent)s

  • Large home appliances like a new washer and dryer (10 percent)


Influencer Marketing During the Thanksgiving Day Weekend

In the Pwc survey, 90% of Gen Zers say they feel they have a personal connection with their favorite influencers, most of which are their seniors. Millennials – and especially Millennial moms – leverage their social networks to research everything from parenting advice to product recommendations. Your brand may get a Millennial’s attention with a sales circular, but you won’t get the sale without providing Millennials with adequate social proof.

So, it’s no surprise that brands partner with social media influencers to promote Black Friday sales, Black Thursday discounts, and to publicize Cyber Monday coupon codes. Last year alone, we found nearly 10,000 sponsored posts that ran with Instagram influencers between November 1st and Cyber Monday 2016.

With 10,000 sponsored posts being published in 28 days, how can you get your product in front of the right people? Believe it or not, social media influencers can.

If you caught our recent post on Coach’s 2016 holiday campaign, we talked about how despite having more than 600,000 Twitter followers, Coach’s posts weren’t even getting likes by 100 of their followers. Here’s the Twitter post:


This tweet from Coach, targeting Gen Zers and young Millennials, got 5 comments, 13 retweets, and 98 Likes. You can check out Coach’s Twitter feed here.

In contrast, this tweet from Lilly Singh (check out Lilly’s Twitter feed here) about Coach (the red satchel, specifically) got 482 comments, 2K retweets (including one from Coach), and 16K Likes.


Ashley Ambers Promotes Ross Stores to Gen Z with No Particular Holiday Promo

In the post below, young Instagram influencer Ashley Ambers (@modestlyhot) ran a sponsored post for Ross Stores last year that specifically targeted Gen Zers and young Millennials. Ashley’s angle in the post was that her entire outfit cost just $20, a tidbit that would certainly attract the typical, cash-conservative Gen Zer. Sixty-three percent of Gen Zers identify price as the most important factor in their decision to buy come time for Christmas shopping.



Cyber Monday Coupon Codes Drive Online Traffic to Daniel Wellington and Paula’s Choice Stores

This sponsored post from Angela Ricardo Bethea (@koreandoll), saw about 2% engagement and it was coupon code followers could use to get 20% off Paula’s Choice skin care products plus free shipping. The post is eye-catching with a copy-and-paste link to where followers can redeem the offer.


Source:’s Cyber Monday influencer marketing campaign was in full force last year, with several key fashion influencers running sponsored posts to promote coupon codes giving followers 15% discounts on the brand’s luxury watches.



The Branded Social Proof Promotion

So, this post by Erica Hoida (@fashionedchicstyling) also promoted a skincare product, but the strategy is a little different from the post we saw earlier from @koreandoll. The incredible response to this post has everything to do with Erica’s ongoing Instagram story. She is edgy, glamorous, and the photography flawless. Even more striking is her skin looks amazing in every single shot.

So, in her trademark black clothes and stilettoed heels, you get just a glimpse of her glowing skin and it’s enough to push more than 20,000 of her followers to engage with the post sponsored by Curelus for their Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer.



That’s Thanksgiving  - the Real One - by the Numbers

Forty-six million turkeys, 47 million holiday travelers, and 32 million football viewers (Go Cowboys!) are just a few of the numbers that go into making the Thanksgiving holiday weekend memorable. For five days, shoppers make hundreds of millions of stops at local businesses and big-box retailers in person and online. We spend tens of billions of dollars shopping for gifts and steep discounts in celebration of the start of the holiday shopping season.

The Pilgrims had their three-day festival, and well… I guess we have ours.