Black Friday tends to divide Americans into two distinct groups: those who spend it in their pajamas eating leftover turkey, and those who spend it standing in line to buy a discounted TV. While Black Friday traditionally signals the start of the Christmas shopping season, the holiday has definitely evolved in the 84 years since its inception. 2016 has been an especially defining year for Black Friday shoppers and retailers. Here are some trends that we have picked up on:
1. Cyber Monday Is Taking Over
Analysis of social media data reveals that Black Friday conversations are down compared to last year, while Cyber Monday chatter has soared. This trend is also reflected in the retail numbers. While holiday spending is expected to jump 4% compared to last year, more than half of this increase will come from online shopping. This change is driven (unsurprisingly) by millennials, who prefer to do their shopping on their phones and computers, instead of in brick-and-mortar retail stores. Many retailers have seemingly anticipated this shift towards e-commerce and have loaded their retail websites with both Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
2. A Lot of Brands Are Opting Out
Over the last few years, many stores have been opening earlier and earlier for Black Friday. This year, some are even opening before Thanksgiving dinner starts! While many brands are sticking with this trend, a few are heading in the opposite direction. In 2016, a record number of brands, like DSW, Ikea, and Staples, have chosen to close their stores on Thanksgiving. This isn’t as risky of a move as you might think. Many of these renegade retailers have given customers the option to shop online for deals instead.
Interestingly, these brands launched marketing campaigns centered on their store closings, appealing to family-centric customers who want Thanksgiving to be about gratitude instead of shopping. A more extreme example comes from outdoor recreation retailer REI, who has closed its physical and online stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The move has been heavily marketed with their #OptOutside campaign, which encourages would-be shoppers to explore the outdoors instead. We look forward to seeing whether opting out pays off for retailers in the long run.
3. The Shine May be Fading From the Apple
Last year, Apple famously chose to not offer any Black Friday deals, stating that they wanted to save their retail workers from the tradition’s chaos. However, many speculated that Apple did not offer a holiday sale simply because they didn’t need to—business was already booming.
This year, Apple has flipped the switch and is offering a sale both in-stores and online. The reasons behind this move are pretty clear—their smartphone sales have been slowing down, and their latest MacBook release saw a tepid reception. Now, Apple can’t afford to opt out of the busiest shopping day of the year, especially when other Apple retailers like Target and Best Buy are offering deals on the company’s products. While Apple hasn’t released the details on their Black Friday sale yet, they have heavily marketed just the fact that there will be deals.
4. Black Friday Has Gone Global
While the United States is the only country that celebrates a Thanksgiving-like holiday on the fourth Thursday of November, other countries have been participating in its retail aftermath, Black Friday. The trend seems to have started several years ago with our northern neighbor, Canada. On past Black Fridays, many Canadians would cross the border into northern American states or would shop with American retailers online in order to get great deals. However, this activity should decrease this year as more and more Canadian brands offer Black Friday sales in their own nation. Even countries like Romania, India, and South Africa are participating in this year’s Black Friday, indicating that the American event has now become a global commerce phenomenon. Now everyone can enjoy the joy and chaos of getting a blender for half-price!