Spokane Journal of Business

WSU survey: Many shoppers to skip Black Friday sales

Most PNW consumers expect to buy online

  • Print Article

A survey compiled by Washington State University’s Carson College of Business suggests a majority of Pacific Northwest shoppers may be inclined to skip big holiday sales dates like Black Friday this year.

The survey, which was conducted online earlier this month, polled 1,000 consumers in the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, as well as parts of Montana, California, and British Columbia.

Nearly two-thirds of the survey’s respondents indicated they’ll likely skip Black Friday shopping entirely this year, preferring instead to shop online or spend time with family.

Carson College’s senior associate dean David Sprott says the purpose of the survey was to examine how consumers’ attitudes toward the holiday shopping season have changed, as well as what kind of impact the development of online retail and payment methods have had on people’s shopping choices.

“It’s crazy to see how much people’s attitudes toward Black Friday have changed,” says Sprott. “People used to plan their whole weekend around these sales.”

The survey started by asking respondents how likely they were to shop in-store for Black Friday, with only 36 percent responding they were likely to do so.

“With so many saying they didn’t plan to shop in store on Black Friday, we also set out to find out why, and a large percentage mentioned a dislike of crowded stores,” says Sprott.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said they didn’t feel Black Friday shopping was necessary, as they could find similar discounts elsewhere or on non-event dates.

The survey also showed 62 percent of consumers planned to spend time with family rather than shopping, while 25 percent planned to spend time outdoors.

When asked how likely they would be to shop online for Black Friday, 65 percent of survey respondents said they were likely to do so, while the remaining 35 responded as unlikely to do so.

“It’s a struggle for many retailers to find ways to draw customers back in physically,” says Sprott. “They’re starting to find the old method of  ‘come in on this day to get the deal’ isn’t as big a motivator anymore.”

Sprott says the survey’s results indicate retailers may need to begin rethinking their marketing strategies, in order to accommodate consumers’ ideal shopping experience.

“They could hold onto the past, keeping up with in-store Black Friday promotions, or they could choose to spread big sales throughout the year,” he says.

Although the survey reported that seven in 10 shoppers plan to buy holiday gifts in local stores, chains, or small businesses, 65 percent said they also plan to buy online or at international chains. Three-quarters of respondents identified Amazon.com Inc. as the top retailer from which they plan to buy.

“Consumers seem to have good intentions to shop in store for the holidays, but the fact that nearly three in four will be purchasing gifts from Amazon indicates that when push comes to shove, they will primarily buy items online,” says Sprott.

He adds, “There’s also the possibility that there is a disconnect between what people think they do (shop in-stores) and what their actual behavior is (buying online).”

Survey results also showed 49 percent of respondents said they’ll likely look at items online first, before purchasing them in store.

While the survey results indicated more Black Friday purchases will take place online this year, survey respondents did list a couple factors that could increase their chance of buying in-store, including an easy return policy (63 percent) and price matching (59 percent).

Although the online purchases and payment technologies are becoming more popular, Sprott says the survey results also show that not all consumers are comfortable with using them yet.

“Despite the ease of number of people buying online, ultimately cash is still king,” he says.

Only 30 percent of survey respondents said they plan to use PayPal for online purchases, and even less (5 percent) indicated they will use other options such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Wallet.

The Carson College of Business is the business school of Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. 

Faculty across disciplines produce scholarly and applied research at WSU’s main campus in Pullman as well as at urban campuses in Vancouver, Everett, and the Tri-Cities.

LeAnn Bjerken
  • LeAnn Bjerken

  • Email LeAnn Bjerken
  • Follow RSS feed for LeAnn Bjerken

Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list