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Black Friday 2015 by the Numbers

Millions of phones with Foursquare and Swarm were celebrating Black Friday by hitting the shops this past week, giving us a clear model of how the overall US population tackled their gift lists. Here's what we found.

Written by Jeff Glueck on Dec 02, 2015 - Read time: 4 min - Read Later

Black Friday 2015 shopping foot traffic data

Overall Shopping Was Down on Black Friday

Overall retail foot traffic was down -2% year-over-year on Black Friday. When you remove key offline stalwart categories like auto dealers and grocery stores, however, we saw -5% YoY foot traffic.

Online shopping is clearly taking a bite out of certain categories more than others. Those with bigger offline traffic declines in our data: Apparel, department stores, electronics retailers, toy stores and mobile phone stores. Brick & mortar categories which are holding up better against the shift to e-commerce include big box retailers, bookstores, and grocery and specialty foods. Since many retailers play well in both digital and physical shopping, strong omnichannel brands may still end seeing overall sales gains, but others will not be able to make up the gap.

Our speculation is that brick & mortar local grocery stores (including specialty foods and liquor stores) will likely retain strength even as mobile and online commerce eat faster into other categories. Also, big box retailers keep some advantages during holiday shopping because of the breadth of merchandise and deals and the ability of consumers to touch the merchandise and drive home with it. In the coming few weeks of the whole holiday season this advantage will be even more true, as shipping cut-offs come into play in the final weekend.

Shopping Is Getting Spread Out Over the Holiday Season

In keeping with the trends we shared last week from 2014, we are seeing a continued smoothing out and “spreading out" of the shopping patterns over the course of the holiday shopping season. For instance, shopping is starting earlier: If you add in Thanksgiving day to Black Friday, 25% of traffic over the two days happened this year on Thanksgiving. Stores are opening earlier than before.

Black Friday 2015 retail foot traffic data

Daily foot traffic peaks and valleys this year are less pronounced, as Friday foot traffic the last few weeks has been closer to Sunday levels.

And last year, the biggest single offline foot traffic day was actually Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas. We will watch whether this repeats in coming weeks. So even though Black Friday is down, there is a lot of the shopping season still to play out.

Big Surges: Best Buy and JCPenney

We looked at a selection of retail brands above and how well they did at driving a Black Friday surge relative to their “normal day" traffic. This measure is about a percentage surge of foot traffic, not to be confused with the biggest absolute share of traffic versus rival stores. It's a metric of racing against themselves, so to speak.

On Black Friday, both Best Buy and JCPenney got more than 4x their normal Sunday traffic. Best Buy showed the biggest surge to its regular foot traffic, thanks to deep discounts on big ticket items. Best Buy is no surprise here; last year it also showed 4x its regular visitors. JCPenney came in second on this metric. It's a department store chain that hasn't been performing that well overall — but it showed that it was successful at promoting its Black Friday sales compared to its regular traffic from earlier in the month.

Important note: Having a big surge is not necessarily a signal of the overall health of a business or how it is performing YOY. It can also be a sign that “regular" everyday traffic is low by comparison, for instance. While Walmart and Target showed lower surges, we saw in separate metrics that Big Box retailers like these did relatively well compared to the prior year. It may be a sign their ‘normal' traffic is higher to begin with.

Hungry for more analysis? Much more detailed analytics and figures, including category deep dives and same-store visits YOY, are available for our Place Insights premium subscribers. For more information, or to get in touch with the Foursquare Place Insights team, connect with us here or email


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Black Friday 2015 by the Numbers

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