As I swallowed my last few bites of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I was filled with a sense of foreboding dread. The next day, on Black Friday, I was venturing out to stores to cover the retail scene as a fashion analyst. Years prior, I avoided Black Friday like jeans on Thanksgiving. I knew it would be tight and uncomfortable. But this year, in the name of apparel insights, I was facing my fear, and the crowds, head on.
Since I focus on apparel, I figured there wouldn’t be a line at 6am to grab chenille sweaters and fuzzy outerwear, so I decided to head to the stores a little later. My first stop: Off-price stores. According to our Holiday Purchase Intentions Study, 16% of consumers plan to shop the off-price channel this holiday season, up three percentage points versus last season.* Off-price retailers also had a phenomenal year in apparel, stealing the most dollar share than any other channel.** So naturally, I figured Black Friday would play a big part of that shopping. In NY, Friday was a brisk morning to say the least, and the crowds thought so too. In-store traffic was slow moving from 9-11am, with most having more sales associates on the floor than actual shoppers. Saks Off Fifth offered 50% cold weather categories, like cashmere and outerwear. The traffic I witnessed was at Nordstrom Rack, where they had a straight up cash-back promotion, offering promo cards up to $75.
My next stop was the mall (dun dun dunn). My dread was palpable, but quickly subsided as I immediately found a spot (spots were scarce, but attainable). Venturing into the department stores, Macy’s was bustling. Holiday dresses and other festive apparel were a big promotional focus at Macy’s. Specialty stores are where things got a little crazy. Gen Z’ers rushed to Urban Outfitters to take advantage of their BOGO 50% off deals. Zara and Uniqlo were equally as packed with shoppers trying to score on what is typically full price merch.
There was definitely more traffic than your typical weekend, but the crowds were not unbearable. When it came to apparel, retailers who offered clean and easy promos (like 30% off, BOGO, or cash back) seemed to have the most traffic. ’With multiple days of deals available to the consumer, in-store and online, today's Black Friday was not the same as the event I once dreaded. I have a new impression of Black Friday, and I am happy to report that, like every 1 in 5 consumers*, I too practiced a little self-gifting while on my shopping journey.
* Source: The NPD Group / Annual Holiday Survey
** Source: The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service, 12 ME Oct’19
*** Source: The NPD Group / Future of Apparel 2019