CivicScience | Insight Report: Thanksgiving and Black Friday Shopping Intent is Down

Insight Report: Thanksgiving and Black Friday Shopping Intent is Down

Last Updated

Publication Date: November 19, 2015 | Download the PDF

Report Overview: By using data from CivicScience’s InsightStore™ platform, we compare consumers’ shopping intent for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday in 2015 to intent data stated in 2014. We’ll also profile the likely shoppers of each day.

Last year, CivicScience’s measurement of consumers’ lessening intent to shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday accurately lined up with declines in sales data for those days, as later reported by the National Retail Federation. According to the National Retail Federation, last year roughly 134 million people shopped over the Thanksgiving weekend, which was down from the expected 140 million. This change may in part be the result of retailers pushing sales events up ever-earlier in the season; Amazon is currently running daily deals in its “Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week” and Home Depot is already featuring substantial discounts, to name a few.

While some retailers are already releasing pre-Black Friday deals and/or previewing their “Gray Thursday” and Black Friday ads and promotions (so that consumers can stake out their purchase plans of attack), others are taking a stand and choosing to keep their doors closed during the holiday. For example, REI recently made headlines when they decided to close on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and more than half of consumers agree with the decision:

Black Friday 2015 - REI closed

But all sentiment about corporate practices aside, will 2015 be another down year? Are more purchases being pushed earlier in the year? And who’s still going to be getting on the Black Friday party bus?

Starting in early November 2015, we asked U.S. adult consumers questions related to their shopping intent on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. We compared the responses to last year’s answers to those identical questions and were able to measure intention change and also profile the likely Thanksgiving and Black Friday shoppers.



Fewer Plan to Shop in 2015 on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

After analyzing our holiday data from the CivicScience InsightStoreTM, we find that fewer U.S. adult consumers say they are likely to shop for holiday gifts on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday than last year.

Black Friday 2015 - Thanksgiving Day shopping

Asking more than 3,200 U.S. adults about their 2015 Thanksgiving shopping plans, 10% this year say they are very or somewhat likely to go shopping for holiday gifts on that day, which is down from 13% in 2014. (Last year’s data were collected from over 4,300 adult respondents during a similar time frame.)

Let’s now look at the day after: Black Friday shopping intentions…

Black Friday 2015 - B.F. shopping

Of the over 3,200 U.S. adults asked, 19% said they are likely to go shopping on Black Friday this year, compared to the 22% who were likely to shop in 2014. (Last year’s data were collected from over 3,200 adult respondents during a similar time frame.)

So considering margins of error, at best we are likely to see “flat” sales results compared to 2014, and at worst, a decline.

This also doesn’t bode well considering that our ongoing poll question asking about spending volumes in 2015 continues to show that a larger number of consumers plan to spend less vs. more overall this year on the holidays compared to last year:

Black Friday 2015 - holiday spending intent

As you can see, consumers’ spending plans have not changed for the better as the season has progressed.

We’ve also been monitoring shopping progress, and last week published a report about how much holiday shopping has already been completed by consumers. This active, ongoing question on our platform will continue to run through the season. Looking at the most recent seven days of data (November 9-16), only 11% of consumers are now at least halfway done.

It must also be reiterated that our insights about consumers’ disdain for crowds and lines when it comes to holiday shopping in stores is not insignificant, and may be further driving folks either away from the doorbuster events at the bricks-and-mortar locations and to the online deals, or just moving their shopping days away from the major sales events in general.

When evaluating consumers’ Black Friday shopping method – in stores or online, we found that it hasn’t changed much from last year. Of those planning to shop on Black Friday and who know how they will shop, 55% of adults will do all or most of their shopping online, 26% will do all or most of their shopping in stores, and 18% said it will be evenly split between online and in stores.

Walmart seems to be paying very close attention to such consumer sentiment and are taking steps accordingly. Walmart recently announced they will offer most of their in-store deals online as well, and it looks like consumers will be taking advantage of the offer. After filtering out consumers who do not plan to shop at Walmart on Black Friday and those unsure of their plans, we found the majority (69%) of the Walmart shoppers will do this shopping online:

Black Friday 2015 - Walmart deals

All of that said, there will no doubt still be plenty of consumers in terms of numbers who will be walking the aisles at retail stores over the long holiday weekend. Let’s now use CivicScience’s platform to better understand who those most-likely shoppers will be…


Thanksgiving Day Shoppers

The likely Thanksgiving Day shopper is determined by combining those who said they are “Very likely” and “Somewhat likely” to shop for holiday gifts on this day in 2015, and comparing them to the average U.S. adult.


  • Likely Thanksgiving shoppers are 25% more likely to be women than average.
  • Likely adult shoppers are 86% more likely to be under 30 years old.
  • Their income is very similar to the average, however, they are slightly more likely to have a household income below $50K.
  • They are 23% more likely to not have children.

Holiday Shopping Plans

  • The likely shoppers are 2X as likely as the average to plan on spending more this holiday season than last.
  • Seventy-six percent of likely Thanksgiving shoppers are also likely to shop on Black Friday, so they are likely to be shopping on both days.
  • They will be doing slightly less of their holiday shopping online than the average adult. Forty-five percent will be doing 25% or less of their holiday shopping online and that could be because they are more likely to not dislike anything about holiday shopping in stores.

General Shopping Behavior

  • Likely Thanksgiving Day shoppers are 90% more likely to try new products before others.
  • They are 60% more likely to value brand over price when shopping.
  • They are 48% more likely to actively (very frequently or often) use their smartphone to research products they want to purchase.

Although it looks like there will be fewer people shopping on Thanksgiving Day in 2015 vs. 2014, those who are likely to shop are planning on spending more this holiday season than last. Since they are more likely to be early adopters, they will probably be looking to visit stores offering the newest and latest products that are just hitting the market. And just because they will be shopping for sales and deals, it doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to pay a little more for brand-name products.

Retail consumer research solution

Black Friday Shoppers

Here’s what we uncovered when comparing the likely 2015 Black Friday shopper to the average U.S. adult population.


  • The likely Black Friday shopper is 20% more likely to be a woman.
  • They are 64% more likely to be under 30 years old.
  • Their household income is very similar to that of the average adult.
  • They are 23% more likely to not have children.

Holiday Shopping Plans

  • Likely Black Friday shoppers are 2X as likely to say they enjoy the deals in the stores most when holiday shopping and 80% more likely to say they enjoy the holiday music and decorations the most.
  • They are more likely to do all of most of their shopping that day in stores over online: 33% plan to do all of most of their shopping in stores while 25% plan to do all or most of their Black Friday shopping online.

General Shopping Behavior

  • They are 79% more likely to closely follow trends and current events in fashion.
  • They are 70% more likely to say price is a little more important than brand when shopping for electronics / media.
  • They are 54% more likely to say price is a little more important than brand when shopping for clothing / accessories.
  • They are 53% more likely to actively (very frequently or often) use their smartphone to research products they want to purchase.
  • They are 47% more likely to be loyal to the brands they buy due to their value or price.
  • They are 37% more likely to use coupons on non-grocery related items every chance they get.

When only looking at demographics, the likely Thanksgiving shopper is very similar to the likely Black Friday shopper. However, when it comes to their holiday shopping behaviors and their more general shopping habits, this group of likely shoppers appears to be much more price-conscious than Thanksgiving Day shoppers. They enjoy a good deal, which is probably why they are likely to shop on Black Friday.


Black Friday: Which Product Categories Will be Hotter in 2015?

Lastly, what products will consumers be filling their carts with on Black Friday?

Black Friday 2015 - spending categories

Electronics and media purchases are expected to once again capture the largest spend volume as a whole in 2015, with nearly half (45%) of Black Friday shoppers planning to make buys in that category. Although, compared to last year’s projections, growth seems to be flat. According to Stephen Baker, Vice President of Industry Analysis for our partner, The NPD Group, “Tech remains a key driver for all sorts of retailers during the holiday season, especially on Black Friday and during Thanksgiving Week. The category’s high profile, specifically recognizable products and brands, and relatively high prices make it ideal for the type of promotions we see on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Week.” Baker predicts audio products, 4k TVs, and digital fitness bands to be the hot tech products this holiday season.

Clothing and accessories may likely see a slight drop in sales over 2014, while toys and games (and to some extent housewares) are tracking to be more popular in 2015. NPD’s analysts expect the U.S. toy industry to have its strongest year in over a decade and their Video Game Analyst, Liam Callahan, also has positive expectations for video games this holiday.

Echoing similar predicts for this season is Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, who says that, “This year we see apparel slipping as the most popular gift to give… It is getting displaced by more practical gifts like housewares and small domestic appliances. Toys and video games always fare well, and likely will again this year, as deals are already being offered up. Now let’s look at the real Black November winner—electronics. With door-buster deals and specials all month long, electronics will be especially prominent for Black Friday week.”


In Summary

Once again, we are likely to expect fewer adult consumers shopping on Thanksgiving and on Black Friday in 2015 compared to 2014, and this year, many retailers are announcing commitments to keep stores closed on the national holiday. Couple that with retailers starting “big deals” earlier in the month, and it seems that shopping is getting more stretched out this year than ever before. Retailers are also starting to accept the consumer aversion to in-store holiday crowds by offering more online deal options.

However, many retailers – especially those on “Main Street” – need the holiday foot traffic. By profiling the likely shoppers, retailers can get a better sense of who will be shopping on those busy sales days and can better accommodate, target, and advertise to consumers. Younger shoppers, who perhaps haven’t been fatigued by years of holiday mayhem, may be the best bet – especially if the stores play up the deals and the ambiance.

But how worried should retailers be at this point, given the data that suggests more shoppers will be spending less than more compared to 2014? It may be too soon to tell, and yesterday’s latest Economic Sentiment Index report published by CivicScience and Hamilton Place Strategies suggests that consumer confidence may be perking up.  CivicScience clients should continue to closely monitor our active data in the InsightStore™ to keep a real-time pulse on these indicators.


About the CivicScience Methodology:

CivicScience collects real-time consumer research data via polling applications that run on hundreds of U.S. publisher websites, cycling through thousands of active questions on any given day. Respondents voluntarily opt-in their answers with no incentives, compensation or coercion — they answer for fun and are kept anonymous, allowing for greatly reduce bias and higher levels of engagement. The questions used in this report – “How likely are you to go shopping for holiday gifts on Thanksgiving Day?” and “How likely are you to go shopping on Black Friday?” collected 3,274 responses and 3,267 responses from 11/2/2015 to 11/12/2015. The question – “On which of these do you expect to spend the most while shopping on Black Friday?” collected 2,229 responses from 11/2/2015 to 11/12/2015. All respondents for this report were weighted for the U.S. Census, 18 years and older. CivicScience builds deep, timely psychographic profiles of these respondents with each question they answer over time, providing valuable consumer sentiment and behavior insight data to the decision makers who care. The CivicScience methodology has been scientifically validated by a team of academic leaders and by independent research firms. CivicScience currently has millions of anonymous consumer profiles stored, growing daily.


Download the PDF version