How important is Black Friday?

Black Friday Sale Poster with Dark Balloons Bunch

Black Friday is here, but just how important is the day that has historically been the most watched of the holiday shopping season?

Consumer confidence has jumped following the conclusion of Election 2016, but while that post-election confidence is expected to translate into spending,

Foursquare predicts that Black Friday foot traffic to retail locations will decline 3.5% this year and a Bankrate survey found that less than a quarter (23%) of consumers plan to shop in-store today, down from 28% in 2014.

A big reason for the continued decline in Black Friday store foot traffic is the increasing number of consumers who choose to shop online instead of wait in line.

Increasingly, big deals aren’t limited to stores; they can be found online. Case in point: Wal-Mart, which is not known for luxury goods, is trying to lure high-end shoppers to its website on Black Friday with deals on items such as Cartier watches and Prada shoes sold by third-party marketplace vendors.

But the decline in Black Friday isn’t an offline-only phenomenon. Online, Black Friday’s pull is also in decline.

Women and men hurry run to sale.

According to Adobe Digital Insights, online sales on Thanksgiving are expected to hit $2 billion for the first time ever this year, an increase of nearly 16% year-over-year. By 5:00 pm Eastern yesterday, Adobe said online sales had already reached $1.15 billion.

In fact, according to retail analytics firm Market Track, half of shoppers say they’ll have most of their holiday shopping done before Black Friday, which explains why a BDO survey found that most retail CMOs don’t expect to see a real year-over-year bump in sales on Black Friday or Cyber Monday despite the fact that they, like the National Retail Federation, expect a strong holiday shopping season overall.

The new holiday shopping season

In short, the holiday shopping season no longer begins with Black Friday, or even Thanksgiving. Instead, retailers eager to capture sales and avoid competition and heavy discounting as much as possible started sales as early as October and the holiday shopping season was well under way in November.

This doesn’t mean Black Friday is dead. Even though it’s no longer the star of the show, it will remain one of the biggest holiday shopping days of the season.

But its overall importance is fast declining and retailers that want win the battle for holiday shopping dollars, and do so with the least possible hit to their margins, will increasingly have to plan for a holiday shopping season battle that lasts months, not days.

As Vitaly Pecharsky of Slickdeals observed, “Basically, until a week before Christmas, we’re going to see a lot of sales. You’ll see Black Friday 2.0 and Black Friday 3.0.”

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