The National Retail Federation expects over 158 million Americans to shop this weekend. But waiting in long lines, camping out overnight, and fighting for that great deal might be a thing of the past for Black Friday shoppers.
“I feel like the pandemic has slightly changed this trend,” said Ali Besharat, associate professor at the University of Denver and consumer insights expert.
Like a lot of things, he said holiday shopping has gone online.
“We saw less foot traffic in the retail brick and mortar stores and online shopping actually picked up quite a lot during the pandemic in the past two years or so. And I feel like a lot of consumers nowadays are more comfortable and more reliant on online shopping as opposed to going to brick and mortar stores,” he explained.
Before the pandemic, many customers would line up at stores early to get doorbuster sales and other limited-time deals.
“The ease and convenience of mobile shopping has really allowed shoppers to receive the same type of doorbuster pricing we used to see in stores,” Shelley Kohan, an associate professor in the Fashion Business Management Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said.
Kohan has worked in the retail industry for over three decades. She said the shopping season is also longer now.
“Black Friday habits have been changing over the years, including shoppers starting earlier as retailers begin to offer promotions earlier,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in how consumers are purchasing.”
While changes in shopping behavior started before the pandemic, COVID-19 caused a big shift.
“E-commerce is going to break over $200 billion this year, and one of the primary drivers of e-commerce is mobile purchasing,” Kohan said.
This year, staffing has been a huge challenge for brick and mortar stores.
“The challenge with the retail stores is solving the staffing issue that is currently happening everywhere in the U.S. And at the same time, not knowing how many people are going to show up, in terms of social distancing and a lot of other negative things that go along with Black Friday as a day of shopping. So a lot of stores, maybe, decided to close entirely,” Besharat said.
Whether people buy a new TV or shiny kitchen appliance online or in a store, Kohan says the shopping tradition of the holiday will stick around.
“Shoppers like socialization and the tradition of shopping on Black Friday. Something that was greatly missed last year,” she said.