Last year, about 137 million Americans – about half of our adult population – flocked to malls, shops, and their favorite retailers on Black Friday. They’re spending big bucks, as U.S. consumers will throw down about $61.4 billion in sales this year, up from $41 billion in 2008. (In total, we’re expected to spend about $682 billion this holiday season!)

The name “Black Friday” actually came about because it was the day of the year that retailers could expect to see their bottom line go from being in the red to black – or, profitable. In fact, an about 30% of total annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas and for some retailers, such as jewelers and electronics stores, it can be as high as 40%.

Traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving, it represents the start of the high-spending Christmas and winter holidays season.

But each year, opportunistic brands are taking advantage of the shopping mob mentality by expanding their hours, opening earlier and even starting on Thanksgiving.

In fact, 37% of shoppers now arrive at stores at midnight or earlier for Black Friday, and 25.4% of shoppers are in stores by 8 pm on Thanksgiving night!

And some intrepid (crazy?) shoppers actually start forming lines the Monday before Thanksgiving, camping out for the week for the chance to be first in line!

Each year, scores of people are injured as stampedes and fights break out in while people rush to get into stores and take advantage of limited sales. 20 people received medical attention after one woman shot pepper spray into a crowd to clear the way so she could run into the store, and when one man suffered a heart attack, the rush of shoppers just stepped around – or even on – him.

The average shopper now spends $407 just on Black Friday and $967 for the entire Christmas/holiday shopping season.

But while a holiday is something we’re supposed to enjoy, that’s not often the case with this shop-‘til-you-drop celebration. In fact, 43% of Black Friday shoppers report that they “don’t enjoy” the experience.

When it comes to BF and Cyber Monday, e-commerce is also predicated on access to technology. For instance, iPhone users spend 22% more than Android users every holiday season.

Cyber Monday is just as big – or bigger – now. Looking to take advantage of great deals without suffering the crowds, the Black Friday phenomenon now extends to Cyber Monday.

In fact, Cyber Monday is rapidly becoming more economically significant than its Friday predecessor, as a record number of people shop online every year thanks to Amazon Prime, eBay, and other retail sites.

Last year, about 107 million shoppers got online and clicked Buy on Cyber Monday, bringing in $1.5 billion.

In fact, about 20% of all online holiday shopping will take place between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Both shopping holidays are growing steadily, with an average growth rate of +2.5% over the last decade. But in 2008, in the immediate wake of the financial crisis, we saw a 4.6% decline in activity and total dollars spent on Black Friday. We steaded at 0.2% growth in 2009 and rebounded heartedly with a 5.2% increase in 2010.

Projected sales growth includes:

24% on Black Friday

33% on Cyber Monday, and

39% on Thanksgiving Day

The most visited websites on Cyber Monday include,, and, in order of popularity.

Retailers are scrambling to attract an ever-increasing portion of the rabid shopping crowd. In fact, they employ sweeteners like free shipping and in-store pickup, exclusive online deals, and special social media and app sales to increase their piece of the pie.

Consumer researchers have found that the number of deals and sales actually peak the week before Thanksgiving, with an average in-store discount of 20 percent for that week.

But the prices drop even more on Black Friday, with an average 37% discount starting that day through the weekend.

Online sales are best on Thanksgiving day, not Cyber Monday, with an average 24% price discount on electronics, jewelry, apparel, sporting goods, and other popular items.

Many argue that a holiday to celebrate consumerism isn’t necessarily healthy, and our efforts should be focused on more positive endeavors.

For instance, critics of Black Friday point out that our 160 million shoppers is more than the 121 million Americans that voted in the last election.

Furthermore, the $60 billion we spent last year is enough to feed every hungry child in the world – about 190,000,000 – for two years!

The glass-half-full viewpoint is that jobs increase dramatically for Black Friday. This year alone, we’re expected to add up to 550,000 seasonal jobs for the holiday shopping season.

But the working hours aren’t conducive to spending time with family. In fact, more and more employees are mandated to work Thanksgiving and overnight shifts around Black Friday weekend.

That’s led hundreds of thousands of workers at Walmart, Target, and many other retailers to sign petitions that they should be allowed to spend Thanksgiving with their families instead of being asked to work.

If you happen to miss Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don’t dismay because retailers are now focusing on something called Green Monday – the second Monday in December when online sales spike again for the Christmas season!