Has Black Friday lost its luster?

The post-Thanksgiving shopping spree has diminished significance, but it remains a ritual for many

Published: November 26, 2013 06:00 AM
Most Americans don't plan to deal with lines and other hassles to get Black Friday deals.

Despite the barrage of ads touting one super sale after another, most Americans won’t be hitting the malls on Black Friday this year. In fact, 56 percent of adults surveyed for the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Poll* proclaimed that they have no intention of setting foot inside a store anytime during Black Friday weekend. (Read our first Holiday Poll, about Americans' mood at this time of year.)

When asked why, 70 percent cited a desire to avoid crowds, while 34 percent attributed their disinterest to overhyped deals. Other reasons (respondents could check all that apply so the figures below exceed 100 percent):

  • They'd rather do something else (33 percent).
  • They don't want to get up early (30 percent).
  • They'd rather spend time with their family (29 percent).
  • The deals are not usually very appealing (23 percent).
  • They're waiting to shop until after Black Friday (17 percent).
  • They'd rather shop online (13 percent).
  • Stores might run out of specific products they want to buy (10 percent).

The significance of Black Friday as the linchpin of the shopping season has diminished in recent years as the season itself has grown longer. Many merchants have been promoting doorbuster-type sales since October, making Black Friday seem almost ho-hum. In addition, deal-starved shoppers need no longer wait for a seminal shopping spectacle such as Black Friday to unearth bargains. Credit or blame the Internet for the turnaround in attitude. Between comparison-shopping sites and the willingness of big chains such as Toys "R" Us and Best Buy to match the prices of aggressive online competitors such as Amazon, there’s ample opportunity for consumers to find great deals and bargain prices throughout the season.

But for a lot of Americans, Black Friday is a ritual, and 44 percent of those surveyed plan to do at least some shopping, up significantly from the 30 percent who said they did so during the corresponding period last year.

Of those, 69 percent will shop at walk-in stores, while 58 percent go online. Twenty-nine percent plan to shop both outlets. Among respondents’ top reasons for shopping on Black Friday weekend:

  • Black Friday specials are the best deals of the year (55 percent).
  • The doorbuster deals (43 percent).
  • It’s tradition (23 percent).
  • They enjoy the energy of the holiday shopping season (19 percent).
  • They want to get items before they go out of stock (19 percent).
  • It's the best time to get holiday shopping done (15 percent).
  • They want to get their holiday shopping done all at once (12 percent).
  • They want to take advantage of the time off work to shop (11 percent).
  • They enjoy the shopping competition (10 percent).

How to get the best deals

Chances are, if you shop on Black Friday weekend, you won’t be disappointed. Of those who did so in 2012, 67 percent got the deals they wanted; 25 percent weren’t successful but said they found other good deals. If you plan to be out and about, Consumer Reports has this advice:

Be prepared. Study the ads before Black Friday. By now, many major chains have announced their in-store specials. Check either the retailer’s website or one of the aggregator sites such as bfads.net, blackfriday.info, theblackfriday.com, and GottaDeal.com. Some sites let you filter your searches by product categories, such as TVs.

Shop from home. Before braving the crowds, check to see whether the retailer is offering the same—or better—deals on its website. In past years, some major merchants have featured identical specials online and in stores, along with exclusive Internet promotions. The deals are often accompanied by low- or no-cost shipping.

Get app-y. Before you head to the store, make sure your smart phone is charged and loaded with a few key comparison-shopping apps (such as ShopSavvy, ShopKick, and RedLaser) that will let you see special deals and compare prices while you're in the store. Many include a bar-code scanner that lets you scan and compare prices, plus a QR-code reader that can sometimes get you coupon codes or special deals. (Read more about apps for holiday shopping.)

Tod Marks

Help with holiday shopping

Check out our Holiday & Gift Guide, and visit our Money page to find reviews of appliance stores, electronics stores, shopping websites, and much more.

* Editor's Note:

The Consumer Reports Holiday Poll, designed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, is a nationally representative survey of more than 1,500 randomly selected adult U.S. residents. It was conducted in November 2013.

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