Americans don’t do Black Friday the way they used to.
The day after Thanksgiving was once the unquestioned embodiment of frenzied, in-store consumerism. Deal-seekers queued up in darkness to stampede store workers and throw elbows over discounted pillow shams. Yet over the years, as Black Friday lines have shortened, the mania has diminished.
This calming has been reinforced by retailers, who began offering more discounts throughout the holiday season rather than squeezing doorbusters into one day. Foot traffic to U.S. stores has fallen each year on Black Friday since 2011, according to data from ShopperTrak. There are also fewer doors to bust: More than 6,800 chain stores closed in the U.S. this year.
And, of course, shoppers have shifted their Black Friday buying to the internet. Online sales on Black Friday 2016 hit nearly $2 billion, according to ComScore, whose figures tracked only users of desktop computers. Back in 2004, with e-commerce in its infancy, there was just $250 million in online retail activity on the day after Thanksgiving.
Salesforce predicts Black Friday 2017 will surpass Cyber Monday as the biggest U.S. online sales day of the year.
“Gone are the days of lines wrapped around stores. Gone are the days of fighting the crowds,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at research firm NPD Group. “Retailers today have recognized the importance of making it a more civilized process.”
Here’s a look back at the mid-2000s, when Americans still took brick-and-mortar shopping hysteria seriously.