Black Friday to kick off a very different holiday season

Black Friday to kick off a very different holiday season

With less than a month until Black Friday, this year’s holiday retail landscape is looking decidedly different to years gone by.

Already, numerous bricks and mortar retailers have indicated they will be extending and shifting many of their major sales online, while customers are noting they will commence their holiday shopping earlier this year.

So, let’s look at what’s unfolding for the holiday season ahead, including the trends that will remain long after 2020.

Holiday spending

This year the National Retail Federation tips holiday spending will be down marginally on last year, with consumers choosing to focus their attention on gifts for family and friends, rather than non-essential items for themselves.

The NRF survey revealed on average consumers intend to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families.

This is a decrease of about $50 on 2019, but interestingly the areas where consumers are tightening the purse strings are quite specific.

“…nearly all ($45) of the decrease comes from consumers’ hesitation to use seasonal sales and promotions to buy other, non-gift purchases for themselves and their families,” the NRF stated.

“Even still, consumer spending on gifts is on par with last year, decreasing by only about $8, while per-person spending on other holiday items like decorations is actually up slightly.”

Meanwhile, most consumers intend to start their holiday shopping earlier this year, with 42 per cent indicating they plan to commence their holiday shopping by the end of October and another 41 per cent in November.

Retail response

Retail response

Black Friday on November 27 is traditionally the first and largest sales event on the holiday calendar, and already it’s shaping up quite differently, with retailers altering their standard strategy in a bid to counter Covid-19.

Major retailer Walmart is among the stores leading the charge, extending its sales period and transferring much of it online.

Walmart’s approach will see shoppers offered three opportunities to secure deals in the lead-up to Black Friday, rather than one major in-store event.

The retailer has also announced it plans to stay closed this Thanksgiving, and retailers like Macy’s, Target, Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods have also followed suit.

Announcing the shift, Walmart US executive vice president and chief merchandising officer Scott McCall told USA TODAY that more online offers makes for a “safer and more convenient way to shop” and helped manage in-store traffic.

Meanwhile, Lowes is also kicking off its sales earlier, with online daily deals from October 22 – December 2 as part of its “Season of Savings” campaign.

“When it comes to going into the physical stores, we are not going to create a situation where there is a time sensitivity that would create crowd situations,” Marisa Thalberg, Lowe’s executive vice president, chief brand and marketing officer, told USA TODAY. “That is irresponsible in our current environment.”

The shift to an elongated sales period by these retailers also reflects both NRF and other research which indicates consumers are shying away from the idea of waiting for a specific sale.

Affirm Research recently polled 2000 Americans, with 7 in 10 respondents said they’re more likely to buy something on sale now, rather than waiting for the traditional Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales.

A precursor of things to come

Retailer’s Black Friday strategy is the culmination of a year when retail has been forced to pivot and adapt at rapid speed under unprecedented pressure.

And many of the trends we will see across this holiday period will likely persist into the future.

Mashable recently outlined their hit predictions for the 2020 Black Friday trends which will become the norm in years to come, noting curbside pickup, a prolonged sales period, and increased online shopping were among them.

They further predicted in the coming years the following shifts would also become mainstream:

  • A lottery system – Which sees consumers win an opportunity to shop in-store along with a select crowd of others.
  • QR Codes – Which allow shoppers to scan deals and product information from catalogues or websites on their mobile phone.
  • Virtual reality – To offer a retail experience like customers would enjoy in-store, but rather they participate from the comfort of their own home.
  • Voice-activated shopping – Where Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant would be utilized to search for Black Friday deals via voice command.
  • Cashierless retail – Amazon has pioneered this with their cart which recognizes what you put in and take out and then charges customers as they leave a store. That trend is predicted to increase as more retailers embrace the cashierless world.

You can read more about the retail holiday season here, or see our guide for preparing your store for the busy period ahead.