Is Black Friday on the Decline?

Post-Thanksgiving doorbusters are becoming less of a priority for holiday shoppers — but why?
Notice less customers in your shop on Black Friday? Find out why consumers aren't showing up for the biggest shopping holiday of the year. (Photo: Click and Photo/Shutterstock)

Over the last decade, Black Friday has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year — but that may be changing.

According to Accenture’s 11th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey, more than half (52 percent) of consumers plan to skip shopping on the holiday this year. In fact, the survey indicates that shopping’s biggest weekend is declining in popularity overall, with 50 percent of respondents saying they were less likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day and 42 percent less likely to shop on Cyber Monday.

So why does Black Friday seem to be losing its appeal among shoppers? Here are a few reasons, based on Accenture’s findings.

Year-round bargain buying

While Black Friday was, at first, the best day to get doorbuster deals, more brands are offering high-bargain shopping opportunities year-round, which gives consumers less incentive to get out and battle the crowds.

According to the survey, 64 percent of consumers are opting out of shopping in-store on Black Friday this year due to the huge crowds of competitive shoppers. And since nearly half (44 percent) feel they can get equally good discounts on other days of the year, Black Friday deals just aren’t worth the hassle.

Related: 6 Ways to Offer Discounts and Still Make a Profit

Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s retail practice, commented, “Given the rise of constant discounts and promotions on sites such as Amazon, consumers are doing more of their holiday shopping year-round, and this is proving to be the biggest competitor to the traditional peak holiday shopping days.”

To combat this, Standish advised retailers to take “a longer-term view of the season,” focus on building their brand and connect with shoppers practically and emotionally. “Experiences that are distinct, memorable and worth sharing with others can be the foundation for a more profitable, enduring and year-round relationship,” she said.

US Holiday Shopping Graph2

According to Accenture, shoppers believe they can find equally good discounts on other days of the year as they can on Black Friday. (Photo: Accenture)

Increased pre-shopping

Another buying behavior having a major impact on holiday retail sales is the rise of pre-shopping, by means of “webrooming” and “showrooming.”

Results from the Accenture survey indicate that 79 percent of consumers plan to visit stores just to review and handle a product before buying online, also known as “showrooming.” Approximately the same amount (76 percent) of consumers said they will research products online, or “webroom,” before visiting a brick-and-mortar retail store to make their purchase. In fact, four in five shoppers (84 percent) said they will check Amazon before buying elsewhere.

With more consumers researching holiday gift ideas from the comfort of their home, small business owners must not lose the human touch, said Standish. “Those that succeed will balance human understanding and sensibility alongside digital prowess.”

Related: How to Leverage Consumers’ Online Shopping Habits in a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Experiential gifting

The third major reason shoppers are opting out of Black Friday is a declining focus on material gifts. A defining characteristic of millennials is their thirst for adventure and authentic experiences — and this change in priorities is being reflected in the types of gifts being given this year.

According to the survey, 34 percent of respondents plan to give experiences as gifts this year, such as dining out, travel, concert and theater tickets, cooking classes and the like. Moreover, more than a third plan to increase spending on experiential gifts as compared to last year.

“In addition, with the rising popularity of ‘experience’ gifts, competition for wallet-share is shifting from rivals in the retail industry to new competitors in other industries, such as travel,” said Standish. “This makes it even more imperative for retailers who want to grow — or even just maintain — their share of wallet to enhance and improve their customers’ shopping experience, whether through improved technology or the addition of new services.”

Related: How Small Shops Can Thrive in a Retail Downturn

But just because Black Friday is declining in popularity doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time as a retailer. Plenty of consumers (36 percent) still plan to take advantage of the post-Thanksgiving shopping day and have even made it a family tradition. So dust off your upselling skills and get ready for the holiday shopping peak weekend.

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