NEW YORK – "Black Friday" conjures up images of crowded malls, long lines and cranky shoppers, but the day after Thanksgiving did not even rank as one of the top five busiest holiday shopping days last year, according to a report released by MasterCard Worldwide.
The report also found that, contrary to popular belief, there will not be a huge surge in online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving — which has been called "Cyber Monday."
Instead, the report predicts that most people will likely put off their holiday shopping until right before Christmas.
The day after Thanksgiving was dubbed Black Friday because it traditionally marked the day that retailers were said to finally start making a profit — or go into the black — for the year.
While that may no longer be the case, Black Friday has become synonymous with the official launch of the holiday shopping season and drastic early bird sales.
Retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), KB Toys and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. have begun opening their doors at 5 a.m. on Black Friday to accommodate shoppers, and this year many more will be opening at midnight, hoping to attract bargain hunters.
The MasterCard Holiday Shopping Insights report found that 74 percent of consumers think Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest holiday shopping time, and consumers generally believe Black Friday is the busiest day for holiday shopping.
But last year, the day after Thanksgiving was only the sixth busiest day, while Friday, Dec. 23 won the title of busiest shopping day.
MasterCard said its historical transaction data suggests that Saturday, Dec. 23 will be the busiest shopping day this year.
The report also found that consumers are not necessarily shopping online on Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Last year, so-called Cyber Monday ranked as the ninth most active online shopping day in terms of transactions processed, while Monday, Dec. 5 was the most active day for online shopping during the holiday season, the report said.
Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they will do their online holiday shopping on Cyber Monday.
This year, consumers plan to spend most of their holiday budget on clothing and accessories, and the report said they will spend more on gift cards and gift certificates than on toys, games and sporting goods.
To get their holiday shopping done, 84 percent of those surveyed said they will head to department stores, while 41 percent plan to go to electronics stores, 32 percent expect to shop at warehouse membership clubs, and 31 percent will do some of their shopping at specialty retail stores.
Plastic will be the name of the game when it comes to paying for holiday booty.
Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they will use debit cards most often for holiday shopping, while 33 percent favor credit cards. Only 12 percent said they will use cash the most often to pay for holiday purchases, while 6 percent plan to use personal checks.
The survey was conducted for MasterCard Worldwide by Ipsos Insights, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted Oct. 4-10. A total of 1,638 online interviews were conducted and the respondents owned both a credit and a debit card.