Trends to Look For: Black Friday 2015

November 19, 2015

People have come to expect the same things from Black Friday each year: scenes of people camping outside stores the night before, stampedes of determined shoppers, traffic jams at malls, and—of course—great in-store deals. However, Black Friday is changing.

Here’s a look at the trends retailers and shoppers should expect as the holiday season fast approaches:

Lower Black Friday Numbers (But It’s OK!)

Black Friday weekend sales have declined two years in a row. Last year, consumer spending fell to $50.9 billion – down 11% from $57.4 billion in 2013. And according to early predictions by retailers and analysts, it looks like this trend will continue into this year. In one survey, 45% of shoppers said they plan to spend less on Black Friday this year.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Just because shoppers are spending less on Black Friday doesn’t mean they are spending less throughout the holiday season. In fact, 75% of shoppers plan to spend more this holiday season than they did last year.

Mobile Madness

While Black Friday sales have been declining, mobile sales have been increasing each year.

Last year, mobile sales on Black Friday were higher than Cyber Monday. On Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2014, 29% of all shopping was done on mobile devices. Further, 32% of ecommerce sales were made from a mobile device on Black Friday—compared to 24% of ecommerce sales on Cyber Monday.

Shoppers will use their mobile devices to complement in-store shopping this holiday season. This year, 82% of shoppers plan to consult their smartphone while in a store. And 40% said they’ll use their phones to pay in stores.

The ability to shop at your fingertips also places less urgency on Black Friday. Why leave the house on the Friday after Thanksgiving when you can relax and browse all the gift-giving possibilities from the comfort of your favorite armchair – or wherever you happen to be? Mobile shopping allows consumers to shop at their convenience and more sporadically throughout the holiday season. A survey of holiday shoppers showed that 54% planned to shop on their smartphones during their free time throughout the season.

Signal predicted this rush in mobile shopping earlier this year in our 2015 Holiday Shopper Guide. In our survey of 500 holiday shoppers, 67% of consumers said they plan to browse more frequently on smartphones and tablets. And 60% said they plan to buy more often from their phones or tablets.

Alternate Shopping Patterns

Retailers continually compete with each other to offer the best deals. And since they can only cut prices so much, retailers must look for other competitive advantages—like expanding their sales beyond Black Friday.

Many large retailers have already pushed forward the beginning of their Black Friday sales into Thanksgiving Day. The list of retailers opening on Thursday includes Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Sears, and Walmart. But this is only the beginning. Target has announced a 10-day-long marathon of deals that begins November 22 and runs throughout Thanksgiving weekend. Amazon has already started its Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week.

REI has decided to go an alternate route this season: completely closing on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The popular outdoor retailer gained lots of positive press by pushing back against the ever-earlier opening times of its competition.

These earlier and alternative sales take away some revenue from Black Friday and could be a factor in the recent sales declines.

But don’t expect stores to be a ghost town. In our holiday shopper report, 82% of consumers said they still plan to shop in stores this season to soak up the holiday cheer. While you should expect a decline in sales, more mobile gift buying, and alternate shopping patterns this Black Friday, you can still expect a tough time finding a parking spot at the mall!

To learn what shoppers want from their holiday shopping experience and how they are using their mobile devices this season, download the Retailer’s Guide to Understanding the 2015 Holiday Shopper.

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Jacob Greenberg

Jacob was a marketing intern at Signal and a senior at Northwestern University, where he studied Marketing and Psychology. He is a pale Floridian who enjoys hiking, swimming and eating mini M&Ms.