How Much Does Black Friday Matter?

How Much Does Black Friday Matter?

With Thanksgiving happening late in 2019, consumers have six fewer pre-Christmas shopping days than they did in 2018. Unacast is currently investigating the effects of the shortened season on retail visits. What follows is a preview of some of our early insights, with the full study to be released early 2020.

What Kinds of Visitation Patterns Result From A Shortened Shopping Season?

In an effort to understand the similarities and differences in the retail visitation patterns of 2018 and 2019 (so far), we looked at extrapolated visit counts to brick-and-mortar retailers from two different points of view. Chart A aligns to the calendar dates, clearly illustrating 2019’s shortened shopping season, while Chart B aligns the holiday weekends of both years to each other, which also serves to align the days of the week.

Since this preview is being released before Christmas, we do not yet know what the rest of the 2019 visitation pattern will be — but we have a few initial insights: 

  • Black Friday is very likely to be the biggest shopping day of the season, regardless of how far in advance of Christmas it occurs.
  • Aside from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, visits seem to follow a day-of-the-week pattern (with peaks happening on or around weekends), both before and after Black Friday.
  • The week after Thanksgiving 2019, beginning with Cyber Monday, showed a dramatic increase in visits over 2018; However our data shows no evidence that this is driven by consumers compensating for the shortened season, as illustrated by increases in visits across the board. 

What Was The Effect Of The Weather?

Across the country there were three major winter storms over the Thanksgiving weekend. While many states showed an increase in retail visits over 2018, our data suggests that the weather had a cooling effect (no pun intended). Nowhere was this more pronounced than on Saturday, November 30, during which the Northern Great Plains suffered blizzard conditions with as much as two feet of snow reported.1

Simultaneously, heavy rainstorm spread over Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Indiana and Ohio — but our data suggests that there was little to no correlation between this storm and retail visits in the affected areas.

1. https://www.weather.gov/unr/2019-11-30 


Where Should Retailers Lean In?

Black Friday continues to be the powerhouse shopping day for brick-and-mortar retailers. Surprisingly though, our data shows that between 2018 and 2019 visits on Cyber Monday increased a whopping 24% — suggesting that retailers should consider leaning even more into the “Buy Online, Pick up In Store” (BOPIS) trend and invest in their strategies for maximizing the experience for the growing number of BOPIS customers.

Stay tuned... 

In early 2020, with a complete data set on the 2019 holiday shopping season, we are expanding this preview into a full report — complete with additional visualizations, details, and insights. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when it’s available for download.


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