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Three predictions for Black Friday 2021

Black Friday should be a big shopping day – across channels.

The actual day after Thanksgiving mega-sale event is finally coming.

Retailers have been plugging “early Black Friday” promotions since the beginning of October, making the upcoming Nov. 26 arrival of Black Friday seem anti-climactic. While the day after Thanksgiving no longer marks the unofficial start of the holiday sales period (some observers pegged the 2021 retail holiday season as kicking off with the June 21-22 Amazon Prime Day event), it is still expected to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Here are three predictions for trends the retail industry will see emerge during this year’s edition of Black Friday.

It will be big – including in the store
Recent data from Adobe indicates U.S. online holiday sales will reach $207 billion, up 10% from 2020. This figure reflects an elevated level of shopping throughout an elongated holiday season, but correlating consumer survey data from indicates healthy omnichannel Black Friday performance will be a contributing factor.

More than half of respondents (52%) to the survey indicated that they are very or somewhat likely to shop Black Friday sales events (either in-store or online) this year. Results also indicate in-store shopping will make a comeback for Black Friday in 2021, with 77% of respondents ready to shop brick-and-mortar if the store is open and/or the deal is not available online.

Every early Black Friday promotion, as well as offers for the “real” Black Friday, have prominently featured in-store pickup options for online purchases. It is also likely that ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots, as well as consumer fears of shipping delays and low stock levels (more on that in a moment), will prompt many Black Friday customers to simply visit stores to browse and make purchases in person.

Major retailers will benefit from advance stock positioning
Many of the top retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Lowe’s, are making sure to let shoppers know that they began taking steps to shore up their supply chains for the holidays months ago. These actions include adding carriers and suppliers, ordering advance safety stock, and positioning inventory in the supply chain to ensure quick fulfillment of customer orders.

Customers who visit the stores and websites of Tier II and III retailers and find out-of-stocks or lengthy shipping delays will likely turn to Tier I retailers that offer better inventory levels and fulfillment windows. Those retailers have the added benefit of all the publicity they have already received from early Black Friday promotions.

This is not to say that smaller retailers can’t compete on Black Friday. But they will have to bring their “A” game in the supply chain to meet what should be ravenous consumer demand.

Repeat: Overlook Cyber Monday at your own risk
In an October column, I warned retailers busy planning for Black Friday not to overlook Cyber Monday. I feel strongly enough about this advice to repeat it.

Cyber Monday 2020 stands as the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, with Adobe Analytics data indicating digital sales approached $11 billion. And the survey predicts online shopping participation on Cyber Monday is expected to slightly rise from 59% of holiday shoppers in 2020 to 61% in 2021.

It is understandable that some retailers may wonder if Cyber Monday is still a big deal. But in all likelihood, it is.

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