How Black Friday Shoppers Are Planning for 2020

COVID-19 has changed many consumers’ plans for the year and Black Friday is no exception. Staples conducted a survey to see how this year might differ.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, shoppers will soon be on the hunt for holiday deals and nothing says “great deals” like Black Friday. Black Friday, plus the following weekend, is the biggest shopping event of the year, and it’s nearly impossible not to find something you need at a more affordable price. Black Friday 2019 was a record-breaking year, with 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopping from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. This year will undoubtedly look very different due to COVID-19. 

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place and many shoppers planning to stay socially distanced, how much of an impact will the pandemic have on Black Friday 2020? 

To find out, Staples surveyed 2,000 consumers from across the U.S. about their in-store Black Friday shopping experiences from 2015 to 2019. Staples asked about the times they are willing to start shopping on Black Friday, how frequently they shop on Black Friday, and the discounts they’ve received in years past. Respondents were also asked about how they predict COVID-19 will affect their shopping plans this year.  

Previous Black Friday Shopping

You might think that in-store shopping is a thing of the past, but in 2019, consumers spent $869.4 billion on in-store purchases, a 2.4% increase from 2018. Participation is high with 8% of respondents saying that they have hit the stores every year for the last five years and 85% of respondents reporting that they have shopped in-store on Black Friday at least once within the last five years.


Commercials with Black Friday deals are starting earlier and earlier in the year, advertising start times that are also getting earlier. Eventually, store opening times have crept into Thanksgiving dinner. That leads to the question, “How early is too early for Black Friday shopping?” 

Of the respondents who typically shop over the Black Friday holiday, just over 40% say Thanksgiving Day is the preferred time to shop for Black Friday deals. While close to 25% prefer to hit the stores at 4 p.m. or earlier on Thanksgiving Day, the majority of shoppers prefer a later start for shopping, with three of four consumers getting started after 4 p.m.  

This willingness to shop on the Thanksgiving Day holiday has led retailers to open their doors earlier too, with many large retailers extending their Black Friday hours into Thanksgiving itself. However, not all retailers intend to do so this year, announcing they will be closed on Thanksgiving.

For respondents who want to let the turkey and apple pie settle, Black Friday itself is when they start shopping, with 34.2% of respondents saying that before 9 a.m. on Black Friday is their preferred time to shop. If you like to sleep in, then you are with the 32.5% of the crowd who prefer to start shopping between 9 a.m. and noon.  There are also the folks who are in no rush to get to the stores: 21.7% of respondents prefer to start shopping at noon or later on Black Friday. 

Great deals on electronics, appliances, and the most popular Christmas gifts often come with long lines and extensive wait times. Of the surveyed consumers, 32% report waiting in line for at least 30 minutes for a single Black Friday deal, and 8.7% of that group have waited an hour or more in line for a deal. 

Even though there are a large portion of people who are willing to wait for deals, long lines and crowds deter an even larger portion of shoppers. Over 70% of consumers say they have arrived at a store and decided not to shop due to the number of shoppers already at the store.

However for many shoppers, the savings are well worth the wait. A savings of 40% is enough to motivate 42% of respondents to brave the crowds and shop on Black Friday. 

In some cases, it could be the Black Friday experience that shoppers are after. Hitting the stores early has become a holiday tradition for many, so the discounts may not be as important to some shoppers as the time spent shopping with family and friends.

Shopping Black Friday 2020 

Whether you are in the group of shoppers who never miss a Black Friday doorbuster or are the kind of shopper who would rather shop online, it’s clear that your shopping is going to be different in 2020. But not necessarily in a bad way. While shopping in-store will feel different, the sales and discounts will still be there waiting. 

If you plan on hitting the stores this holiday season, remember that you might encounter restrictions that were not in place in previous years -- but keep in mind that the deals aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Retailers are encouraging you to take your time with your holiday shopping, so take advantage of it! 

If you are looking for tips and tricks to make your 2020 Black Friday shopping safe and enjoyable, check out the Staples Black Friday Guide 2020.