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Black Friday: Gone but not forgotten

Steve Olenski
Master Principal Sales Architect

[[This is a guest post from Tom Webster, Vice President at Edison Research]]

As you probably know by now, Black Friday 2014 saw some disappointing news for retailers, as the National Retail Federation announced that both the number of people shopping on Black Friday had declined (down 5.2% year over year) and the amount they spent also declined (by 11%).  This has led to a lot of speculation about the importance of the day after Thanksgiving for holiday retailers.

Certainly, one obvious question is this: What is actually declining – holiday spending, or just the impact of Black Friday?

In our recent Oracle Marketing Cloud/Edison Research study, Unwrapping Shopper Plans , we asked an online sample of 1,017 American holiday shoppers, ages 18+, about their past habits and intended behavior, just prior to Black Friday. What we learned suggests that the importance of Black Friday as a shopping "event" appears to be on the wane.

While 43% of American holiday shoppers indicated that they had shopped on Black Friday last year, 40% of that same sample expressed their intent to replicate that behavior this year--a drop of 7%. What's more, those who indicated that they were planning to "opt out" of Black Friday this year were somewhat more weighted towards higher spenders.Edison Research Cover

Among those planning to spend under $300, the percentage who shopped Black Friday last year was 34%, and the percentage of those planning to shop this year was 33%, a minor drop. However, with persons who anticipate spending $301-$700, the drop is steeper, from 44% to 40%. And with the largest spenders (over $700 anticipated spend) this number dropped from 52% who shopped on Black Friday this year to 49% expressing the same intent for this year.

When you factor in all of these declines, it is clear that at least some of the wind is being taken out of Black Friday's "sales." Where is that money going? In one of the most dramatic shifts in our research report, we see very clearly that a significant amount of purchasing continues to move online. One third of our sample of American shoppers indicated that they did the majority of their holiday shopping online in 2013.

When we asked them what their plans were for 2014, however, 41% indicated that they were planning to make the majority of their purchases online this year--that's nearly a 25% increase.  In addition, 25% of our sample indicated that they planned to shop on Thanksgiving, which clearly had an additional effect.

So, what is clear from this data is that while "Black Friday" may be less in the black than in years past, online any day can be Black Friday. For more on part one of our research project, check out Unwrapping Shopper Plans, and be on the lookout for part two of this research, which will revisit this data among a sample of persons who have just completed their holiday shopping, to see where intent and reality differed and why.


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