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Here's How Black Friday Will Be Different in 2020: Survey & Analysis

Perhaps Black Friday was overdue for a little tuneup. If you’ve seen some of the videos or experienced Black Friday prior to 2020, you may be familiar with the intense mobs, pushing, and even violence that can break out because of a few good deals. This year will likely look a little different, however, considering the intense government regulation over both store openings and crowds. That said, we have been cooped up for quite some time, so perhaps there’s more energy ready to unleash after Thanksgiving than usual.

So what are shoppers planning for Black Friday 2020? We surveyed more than 1,000 people who shopped on Black Friday last year to find out. They shared how COVID-19 factored into their plans, the stores they anticipate buying from online and in-person, the amounts they’re ready to spend, and the items they most want to take home. To see the Black Friday “competition” this year, keep scrolling.

Pandemic Plans for Black Friday 2020

The study began with a quick forecast as to what shoppers wanted from their Black Friday this year. We asked them what risks they perceived by shopping in-person, as well as whether they planned to do so anyway or to stick to online sales. You’ll quickly notice that very few people plan to sit out altogether.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established early on that crowds greatly increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Even though more than 89% appeared aware of this and did perceive a risk of contracting COVID-19 by shopping in person this year, more than a third plan to take this risk anyway and shop in person come November 2020. Ironically, those most at risk were even more willing to shop in-store this year: 45% of baby boomers (compared to 29% of Gen Xers) said they plan to do Black Friday in person this year.

But shopping in general will certainly be a priority for most on Black Friday 2020. Only 2% of participants overall (and not a single Gen Z respondent) said they weren’t going to shop on Black Friday. Sixty-two percent said their shopping would occur exclusively online. With many notorious Black Friday retailers (like Walmart and Target) closing their real doors this Thanksgiving, their “virtual” doors will have to do. Don’t worry, the stores are still offering plenty of deals online.

Plans to Purchase

Financially, COVID-19 wasn’t kind to many. But that’s not stopping shoppers from participating in Black Friday and increasing their overall spending budgets for holiday gifts this year. This next part of the study explores what people plan on spending on gift purchases this year, compared with 2019, which we then compared by age groups.

A fair number of people (29%) foresee their gift-giving budgets increasing since the pandemic began. On average, everyone was ready to spend $600 on other people this year. Fourteen percent said they were avoiding seeing family for the holidays this year due to the pandemic, which ended up helping them save money on both travel and gift-giving. Those who were still traveling to see family perhaps felt an additional obligation to come bearing gifts and increased their gift-giving budget this year as well. As compared with last year, however, baby boomers were the only generation to decrease their spending, on average. All other generations were inclined to spend more.

So what are shoppers planning on buying as gifts this year? Because of COVID-19, it may not be as exciting as it usually is. Here are the gifts our shoppers plan on purchasing for family and friends this season:

Thirty-nine percent intended on gifting masks this year, while another 33.7% said they were purchasing hand sanitizer as a gift. Additional relevant, but perhaps more thoughtful, gifts like food delivery gift cards (26.1%) and subscription meal boxes (17.4%) will also likely be popular gifts this pandemic holiday season. Fourteen percent were even optimistic enough to intend on gifting concert or movie tickets.

Top Spots to Shop

The last part of our study looks at specific locations by name. Respondents were asked whether they intended to shop in each store for Black Friday 2020, as well as how they would do so (online or in-store).

Amazon’s business has been doing just fine amid the pandemic. They’ve even recently announced plans to hire 100,000 more workers due to the swell in e-commerce. It was also the number one place respondents wanted to shop on Black Friday this year, which, of course, is only an online option. More than half wanted to shop exclusively online at Best Buy as well, the company still plans (but has yet to release specifics) on offering 2020 deals. Electronic sales have certainly been popular in years past.

When it came to in-person plans, Costco (47%) and Dollar General (45%) reigned supreme. Both retailers do offer online options, so it’s unclear as to why these locations have customers who are particularly inclined to shop in person. Perhaps baby boomers, who were less inclined to shop online, are particular to these venues. They also haven’t announced any plans to close their doors for Black Friday, unlike Target and Walmart, so they may be receiving overflow from in-person shoppers looking for somewhere to go.

Preparing for Black Friday

In such a time of economic turmoil, it makes sense that respondents are eagerly anticipating Black Friday, with fewer than 2% opting out of shopping for the holiday altogether in 2020. Instead, respondents shared plans to take advantage of online sales or even venture out in person with plans to spend more than they did last year. So, yes, while Black Friday will likely look a lot different this year, the good sales matched with customer fervor aren’t going anywhere.

If you are either planning to shop in person or online this year, make sure you’re not risking it for the sake of a bad deal. Instead, head to CouponFollow to guarantee that you have access to the best coupons for all of your gift-buying needs. If you’re shopping in-store on Black Friday this year, wear a mask, but if you’re shopping from the comfort and safety of your home this holiday season because of COVID-19, make sure to grab your coupon codes at CouponFollow.com to save money at your favorite Black Friday stores.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,001 people who shopped on Black Friday last year about their plans to shop this year. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 84 with a mean age of 39 and a standard deviation of 13 years. Around 19% of respondents identified as Generation Z, 31% as millennials, 30% as Generation X, and 20% as baby boomers. We had respondents select their Black Friday stores from a list sourced from the National Retail Federation’s “Top 100 Retailers in 2020” report. Then we carried those store responses forward and asked respondents to indicate how they planned to shop during Black Friday: in-store only, both in-store and online, or online-only.

Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We didn’t weight our data or statistically test our hypotheses. This was a purely exploratory project examining plans for Black Friday shopping in 2020.

Fair Use Statement

Staying safe and ready this Black Friday involves gathering information. Feel free to share this research with whomever you think may benefit from it, but be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page when doing so.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.