Black Friday is a day when brands offer the best deals of the year to consumers. With massive crowds and unbelievable deals, stores experience a lot of traffic. Videos are posted all over the internet of people throwing items around, pushing each other to get through the stores, and gazing at the messy aftermath inside stores.

Some of these stores execute this “retail holiday” better than others, whereas some barely see a difference in foot traffic. We asked our Observers to go to eight different retail stores across the nation during this last Black Friday and let us know what they saw.

Attendance and Lines

As expected from previous years, Best Buy saw both the most foot traffic and the longest lines. In the previous few years, department store success has declined, but this year, it appears some of the stores saw more foot traffic and longer lines.

Customer Emotion

Beyond foot traffic and line length, we asked our Observers to look at the emotional response of the Black Friday crowds at each store. Recent research shows a strong likelihood of shopper misbehavior, so we wanted to see which stores were prompting these types of responses.

In stores with low foot traffic and short lines, such as True Value and Kmart, customers were reported to be happier. Meanwhile, stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s, which had longer lines, reported more upset customers.

Store Experiences

Best Buy

“It has been mobbed!”

Best Buy is known for its infamously good Black Friday deals. Massive crowds flock to its stores every year, so it was expected it would happen once again, and it did! Our observers reported back to us that the stores were busy with long lines. As for the customers, they seemed primarily positive with the store, unlike some of the other stores observed that day.


Big Lots

“The employee hated being [t]here because [there] were no customers.”

Big Lots had an overall slow year overall. According to WalletHub, its deals were some of the worst this year, which may have been a reason for the low traffic.



“Most lively people at 1 in the morning. Deals seemed sparse.”

Target’s deals were average for 2018, but the brand loyalty it has managed to build led to many shoppers stopping by. Traffic and lines were strong this year, along with frustrated customers at times.



“Somewhat depressing as this store has been here so many years and it closing. Especially with the Christmas music playing and the shelves are empty.”

Because Kmart filed for bankruptcy in October, many of its stores are closing so it offered massive deals. This didn’t seem to help bring in traffic to most of its stores, though, and the lines were short. This did help the customer emotion scale, however, because the shoppers were happier than at other stores.


True Value

“Normal for Friday shopping.”

True Value offered lower deals than any previous year, which may have to do with the low foot traffic it receives each year. Short lines and small crowds did ensure happy shoppers, though.



“Too busy to talk”—A Macy’s employee to an Observer

Offering slightly higher-than-average deals, Macy’s saw great foot traffic and long lines. Its recent closure of 100 stores, yet growing sales, have many analysts conflicted about the future of the company. However, if its Black Friday traffic is any indication, shoppers clearly still shop here over other stores.



“Huge. A crowd of people. [The employee] seems stressed.”

JCPenney took a unique approach to Black Friday this year, offering coupons to anyone who came into the stores. Many stores opened on Thanksgiving Day, which may have affected the Friday traffic at some stores. There were enormous lines at a few stores, whereas others did not see more customers than average days. JCPenney’s deals were the highest of any retailer this year, however.


Most people just want to go home, but they don’t seem upset or aggravated.”

Kohl’s was expected to have some of the best deals out of all stores, which may have been the reason for the high foot traffic and long lines. RetailDive named Kohl’s a winner of 2018’s Black Friday. However, our observers noted that customers appeared more upset and less happy than in other stores reviewed.

As the shopping landscape evolves, it seems that holiday sales still have a role to play. Black Friday may continue to be part of the future or it may fade. Most likely it will become part of some strategies, but not all. REI, the instigator of OptOutside, the anti-Black-Friday campaign, uses it to try and differentiate and appeal to its outdoor-oriented consumers. As our quick study shows, holiday sales, just like the gifts they spawn, come in all shapes and sizes.