Black Friday Crowds Increase as Spending Drops

November 29, 2023

The annual sales bonanza known as Black Friday now lasts for much longer than 24 hours, beginning in the days before Thanksgiving and continuing on through Cyber Monday. And while a record number of American consumers turned out at stores to check out this year’s bargains, they didn’t exactly spend a lot of money. According to data from the National Retail Federation, an estimated 200.4 million people shopped over the five days after Thanksgiving, amounting to more than 60 percent of the U.S. population. 

This record number of shoppers spent far less than in previous years, however, with the average consumer spending about $321. That’s down from last year’s average of $325, and well below 2019’s high of $361 per customer. Although these declining numbers are not what retailers want to see at the start of the holiday season, their moods should be improved by this year’s boost in e-commerce consumers. A study by Adobe Analytics found that online sales on Black Friday weekend spiked by 7.5 percent over 2022, reaching a total of nearly $10 billion in the U.S. “We’ve seen a very strategic consumer emerge over the past year where they’re really trying to take advantage of these marquee days, so that they can maximize on discounts,” said  Adobe analyst Vivek Pandya.

Still, this weekend’s lackluster sales per customer have caused retailers like Walmart and Target to decrease their expectations for the upcoming shopping season. The drop in Black Friday spending could be due to retailers’ reluctance to offer steep discounts like in years past. After all, this year many stores offered deals that ranged from 15 percent to 30 percent off, a far cry from the “doorbuster” sales of previous Black Fridays that frequently saw prices fall by half or more. Today’s retailers prefer to offer deals through rewards programs that provide strategic discounts for frequent customers. These personalized promotions do not reach the general public, however, leading to underwhelming sales events that sometimes fail to attract the attention of contemporary consumers.


  1. Why do you think average spending per customer declined this Black Friday weekend?
  2. What are some potential benefits and drawbacks for retailers who offer discounts primarily through rewards programs for loyal customers?

Sources: Rebecca Picciotto, “Black Friday Shoppers Spent a Record $9.8 Billion in U.S. Online Sales, Up 7.5% From Last Year,” CNBC, November 25, 2023; Parija Kavilanz, “Thanksgiving Weekend Dealhunting Crowds Broke Records but Their Spending Didn’t,” CNN, November 28, 2023; Leticia Miranda, “Black Friday Struggled to Tempt Today’s Consumers,” Bloomberg, November 28, 2023.