WASHINGTON, D.C. – Black Friday ain’t what it used to be.
But business analysts – including the U.S. Census Bureau — are still predicting booming Black Friday sales for retailers on Nov. 26.
As everyone knows, Black Friday is an unofficial event on the day after Thanksgiving that kicks-off the Christmas shopping season by luring consumers with deep discounts and special offers.
In recent years, however, the traditional crowds of shoppers on Black Friday have decreased. Business analysts have attributed that decline to online retailers competing aggressively for Christmas purchases. In 2020, in-store shopping was also curtailed by the threat of the coronavirus.
For example, Census officials report that retail sales in traditional department stores were off by 20 percent in 2020, down to $14.6 billion from $18.3 billion in 2019. Black Friday foot traffic in department stores declined by 37 percent last year.
Major retailers adjusted their hours of operation in 2020 in recognition of the fact that pandemic-wary consumers wanted them to prioritize their safety by discouraging large crowds. Enterprises that had previously opened on Thanksgiving for “early bird” shopping – including Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart – remained closed on the holiday.
Those retailers attempted to cope with lost sales revenue with advertising focusing on online purchasing and multi-day sale opportunities.
Despite those trends, there is good news for both traditional and online retailers in that Black Friday has gradually evolved into a four-day shopping event with the observances of Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
While Black Friday crowds of in-store shoppers declined during 2020, the National Retail Federation says that 186.4 million consumers shopped in-store or online during the period from Thanksgiving to the following Monday.
Those shoppers spent an average of $225, resulting in record holiday sales of $789.4 billion in 2020. Online shopping contributed $188.2 bullion to that total.
Recent commercial polling indicates that 30 percent of American consumers plan to spend even more this year than during the 2020 holiday season.
Those surveys also reveal that the average consumer expects to spend up to $430 on Black Friday. If so, U.S. retail sales are expected to approach $1.14 trillion during the 2021 holiday season.
Consumers report that they plan to spend up to 62 percent of their holiday spending budget online this year. But 20 percent of those shoppers say they also plan to make e-commerce purchases from local retailers on Small Business Saturday.