We used retail foot traffic data and a consumer sentiment survey to assess the impact of inflation on the upcoming holiday season and understand where shoppers stand ahead of Black Friday 2022. The retail foot traffic data analyzes 2017 through 2022 visit patterns to five key holiday shopping categories – clothing brands, shopping centers, electronics stores, recreational & sporting goods retailers, and superstores. The utilization of sentiment analysis – even in a small way – can help bring added and necessary color to consumer decisions and factors that truly drive behavior and demand.
About the survey: Our consumer sentiment survey polled 1,200 shoppers across the country ages 18 and up on October 27th, 2022 using Pollfish’s interface. The survey was conducted using a Random Device Engagement methodology and non-monetary incentives like an extra life in a game or access to premium content. Utilization of this survey is intended to give an indication of consumer preferences and show how foot traffic data and consumer sentiment perspectives can be utilized together.
Black Friday Still Draws Crowds
In recent years, Black Friday has grown from a one-day-only promotional event into a multi-week sales season. But Black Friday day still holds the power to draw large volumes of consumers to brick-and-mortar retail outlets.
Between 2017 and 2021, the Friday after Thanksgiving expectedly garnered significantly more foot traffic than the pre-Black Friday November average. Even in 2020, when COVID diverted shopping online leading to record Cyber Monday sales, Black Friday visits were 91.9% higher than the daily visit average during November 1st-26th, 2020. And in 2021, Black Friday visits compared to the pre-Black Friday November average beat both 2017 and 2018 – despite the day coming after almost two months of holiday shopping during a particularly extended season.
Extended Holiday Season
While Black Friday is still a major retail event, the central importance of the day has shifted. Retail foot traffic in October increased in 2018 and 2019, with October 2019 visits up 4.1% compared to an October 2017 baseline – indicating that the holiday season was already beginning earlier pre-pandemic. Still, the somewhat extended holiday season of 2019 did not impact Black Friday visits, which increased 10.7% compared to Black Friday 2017.
But last year, October visits rose significantly as a result of the particularly extended holiday season – and the spike in October 2021 foot traffic may have affected Black Friday performance, as retail visits for the day remained below 2017-2019 levels. A combination of consumer concern over COVID and retailers urging consumers to shop early likely drove some to stay home during the typically crowded one-day sales event.
This year, October traffic was slightly higher than in 2019, but lower than in 2021, which may mean that this year’s extended season is less likely to negatively impact Black Friday visits. Still, inflation is already causing shifts in consumer behavior, which could hamper this year’s Black Friday performance.
Consumer Sentiment Ahead of Black Friday
Almost two-thirds of holiday shoppers surveyed cited inflation and budget constraints as their biggest concerns this holiday season, and almost half (48%) noted that finding value for money will guide their gift buying process. Still, most consumers (76%) plan on shopping as much or more than in 2021 – and a whopping 85% responded that they will do at least some of their holiday shopping over Black Friday.
So, while foot traffic fell slightly in October 2022 relative to October 2021, Black Friday 2022 may still outperform Black Friday 2021. Consumers are now more concerned about inflation than they are about contracting COVID, which may lead to an increase in Black Friday visits as shoppers turn out in search of good sales. Malls may benefit from bargain-hunting behavior, as the combination of many retailers under one roof will provide shoppers with the opportunity to compare deals and find the best value for money and to limit gas expenditures by enabling consumers to do more with a single visit.
Superstores will also likely be a major winner of this holiday season, as more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers designated superstores as their primary holiday shopping destination. Traditionally, superstores are not major Black Friday destinations due to their everyday low prices, but this year’s strong value-orientation may lead shoppers to look for ways to double down on discounts.
Looking Ahead to Black Friday 2022
Historical foot traffic data indicates that Black Friday is still a major retail holiday that draws crowds to brick and mortar retail channels. And while this year’s holiday shopping did start earlier than usual, October retail visits were not so high as to limit Black Friday performance.
But inflation is already having a major effect on consumer behavior, and it is difficult to predict how the wider economic situation will impact Black Friday visits. Foot traffic will likely get a lift from value-oriented consumers seeking out in-store Black Friday sales, but performance may be hampered by other consumers choosing to limit their shopping and preserve their budgets.
Still, while inflation may limit Black Friday visit heights, the absence of COVID is also likely to give the whole season a boost. Last year’s holiday shopping was cut short by the rise of the Omicron variant in December 2021, but this year’s season is likely to continue through the end of 2022. A full holiday season gives consumers more reason to purchase gifts for friends and family and festive apparel for holiday parties – which means that, despite inflation, this year’s holiday season retail performance may still beat 2021.
For more data-driven retail insights, visit placer.ai/blog.