A Very Different Holiday Shopping Season

Black Friday has symbolized the beginning of the holiday shopping season since the 1950’s. Though the informal holiday has been the busiest shopping day of the year for decades, over the last few years, the benefits of Black Friday have diminished drastically.  

Christmas creep” has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday. Many retailers begin offering promotions as early as October, rather than concentrating on a single shopping day. Another factor is the advent of online shopping. Online retailers wanted a piece of the Black Friday pie and thus gave holiday deal-hunters a more convenient shopping option. So, Cyber Monday was born, and online shopping deals work all year long as well. 

Changes for the 2020 Holiday Season 

This year’s holiday shopping season is going to be a marathon. Promotions such as Target’s Deal Days and Walmart’s Big Save event are starting earlier than ever, while others, like Amazon Prime Day, have been rescheduled in order to have a focus on holiday gifting. Retailers across the nation have geared up to compete with major online sellers like Amazon in an effort to increase their sales throughout the entire shopping season. 

As for Black Friday, we can expect it to be less eventful as many retailers have announced that their doors will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day to limit the typical in-store rush that doesn’t adhere with social distancing guidelines. In fact, 52% of consumers say they will not be participating in Black Friday this year, and just 12% say they will still shop in brick and mortar stores. 

Even still, this holiday shopping season will likely be the most promotion-heavy year on record as online shopping reaches new sales heights. 

Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors 

These changes will also bring about adaptations to consumer attitudes and shopping behaviors. Today, consumers have a mindset that is more value-oriented in response to the financial uncertainty and economic impacts of the pandemic and the election, so they’ll be looking for brands that support their new shopping habits. Here are some examples: 

    • 57% will primarily shop online with home delivery 
    • 53% will avoid popular shopping times to avoid in-store crowds
    • 26% will shop earlier this year to take advantage of sales events

Taking this data into consideration, both online and in-store retailers will have to find creative ways to serve their customers. One example is by offering payment flexibility through methods such as “buy now, pay later” and simplified return policies. 

As shopping habits transform, gifting behaviors typically follow suit. Knowing that personal health has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind in 2020, we can expect to see more health and wellness items gifted to loved ones.  

How Can Brands Help?

As Black Friday evolves, brands must evolve with it. This year has changed social norms in more ways than one. It is more important than ever for brands to focus on the spirit of connection rather than quick sales. Shoppers will be looking for brands who empathize with the stress they are feeling during this year’s holiday season, as well as long-lasting deals that won’t just appear and disappear in one day. They want to shop brands that will support them through this year, and in the years to come. Additionally, many buyers will not be in the place to make all of their purchases at once, and brands must keep that top of mind.


With the new wave of holiday shopping deals covering more than a single day, it’s safe to say that 2020 might be our last “Black Friday” ever. Our world is changing, and retailers know that old traditions must change with it. It will be top priority to stay flexible, work on the relationships with consumers, and remember that consumers are looking forward to longevity with sales, not just a single day to splurge. 

Sources: Mintel: “COVID-19’s Impact on Shopping For Upcoming Holidays”, June 2020; eMarketer Retail: US Consumer Holiday Spending Survey, October 2020; Numerato:r US Holiday Survey, August 2020