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Monday, November 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Two-thirds of Northwest shoppers will stay clear of stores on Black Friday, WSU survey finds

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 21, 2017

Shannon Little checks out the half-priced socks while carrying three pairs of Bearpaw boots she scored on a Black Friday deal at Fred Meyer in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Shannon Little checks out the half-priced socks while carrying three pairs of Bearpaw boots she scored on a Black Friday deal at Fred Meyer in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Black Friday shopping appears to be losing its luster as a post-Thanksgiving ritual, with nearly 65 percent of Pacific Northwest residents saying they’ll avoid stores that day.

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business surveyed 1,000 consumers about their holiday shopping plans. Only 36 percent said they were “somewhat likely” to shop in stores on Black Friday. Nearly half of the people surveyed – 43 percent – said they were “very unlikely” to shop at all that day.

“The results fit what I’ve observed as a consumer and marketing professor,” said David Sprott, senior associate dean for WSU’s Carson College of Business.

Five to 10 years ago, Black Friday was still a big event, he said. The day’s receipts were used as a predictor for the overall strength of the holiday retail shopping season.

But the impact of online shopping, coupled with events like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, is diluting Black Friday’s effect, Sprott said.

Black Friday, as a term related to retail, dates to the 1950s in Philadelphia, when suburban shoppers and tourists surged into the city in advance of a big Army-Navy football game held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to History.com. By the late 1980s, Black Friday sales were common across the nation. The marketing push became synonymous with deep discounts on electronics and other popular items, some of which were stocked in limited quantities.

Sixty percent of the respondents in the WSU survey said they can get good deals without participating in Black Friday sales. Consumers now expect sales and deep discounts throughout the holiday season, and even year-round, Sprott said.

The convenience of online shopping is a factor as well, he said. It has created a culture of “getting exactly what you want when you want it” without standing in a long checkout line, Sprott said.

Survey respondents who weren’t planning to shop Black Friday sales said they preferred to be with their families (62 percent) or to spend time outdoors (25 percent).

REI started a national #OptOutside campaign in 2015, closing its retail stores on Black Friday. The company gives its workers a paid day off and encourages them and REI customers to recreate outside.

Sprott said it’s hard to know whether REI started a trend or tapped into something that was already happening.

“It’s a bit of an odd time to be outdoors,” he said. Ski slopes are just beginning to build snowpack and the prime season for hiking, fishing and camping has passed.

However, with 25 percent of survey respondents indicating they were planning an outdoor activity on Black Friday, the trend is “more than just a blip,” Sprott said.

The WSU survey also queried consumers about where they planned to do their holiday shopping. The majority said they were likely to shop in stores only, but ironically, 76 percent named Amazon as the top retailer they planned to buy from.

People have good intentions of patronizing local brick-and-mortar retailers, but their actual purchases may end up being online, the survey concluded.

This story was updated to correct the spelling of David Sprott’s name.

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