Skip to main content

Black Friday offers some huge discounts, but it's by no means the best or only holiday shopping date on the calendar.

Roughly 154.4 million people told the National Retail Federation that they either shopped or planned to shop on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016. Of those, 40% shopped in stores and 44% shopped online. Of those who shopped in stores, 75% shopped on Black Friday itself, while 74% of those who shopped online did so on that day. However, spending for that weekend overall dropped from $299.60 per person in 2015 to $289.19 last year.

Holiday shoppers' approach to Black Friday has changed as well. Nearly 30% of shoppers went to stores after 10 a.m. on Black Friday, up from 24% the year before. Meanwhile, the percentage of people lining up for early morning doorbusters has shrunk to less than 15% of all Black Friday shoppers. Why? Because consumers now have options both before and after Black Friday.

As the NRF discovered, 10% of shoppers have their holiday shopping completely finished by Black Friday weekend as retailers including Toys R Us, Marshalls (TJX) - Get Free Report , Target (TGT) - Get Free Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report and others accept holiday returns of many items purchased in October or even as early as September. Another 23% don't make a dent in their lists until December.

According to accounting firm Deloitte, even more shoppers may be avoiding Black Friday weekend altogether this year. Of those who replied to its 2017 holiday survey, 20% say they'll finish holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. A whopping 53% say they don't rely on Black Friday as much as they used to, while one in five shoppers will spend 23% of their holiday budget after December 25. Roughly 51% of that group says they'll still be buying gifts for the current holiday season.

The NRF says it expects holiday sales to increase 3.6% to 4% from last year, with totals ranging between $678.5 billion to $682 billion. With one more day of shopping on this year's calendar than there was last year and an extra weekend's worth of shopping thanks to the fact that Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the NRF sees U.S. holiday shoppers spending deep into the holiday season.

"Our forecast reflects the very realistic steady momentum of the economy and overall strength of the industry," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay says. "Although this year hasn't been perfect, especially with the recent devastating hurricanes, we believe that a longer shopping season and strong consumer confidence will deliver retailers a strong holiday season."

Those shoppers just won't necessarily have to pin all of their hopes on Black Friday. With retailers embracing all points on the retail calendar, shoppers no longer need to wait out in the cold, shoulder their way through a horde of human beings and go sprinting toward cheap generic versions of better name-brand items. With help from the NRF, Deloitte, shopping site DealNews and market research firms ComScore and ShopperTrak, here are ten less-hectic days for getting holiday shopping deals.

Is Your Wallet Ready for Black Friday?

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 24.