By Sara Korab

Last Updated: November 10, 2021

2021 Black Friday Forecast

Thanksgiving weekend marks the start of holiday shopping for many Americans, but not all revelers celebrate the sales. Long lines, high tensions, and limited supplies can add angst to the hunt for good bargains.

Recent retail reforms have tamed consumer carnage and civilized the shopping experience by normalizing holiday store hours and extending deals into cyberspace, but pandemic conditions present unique challenges that may upend traditional dynamics.

Savings.com wanted to know how a lingering recession, COVID-19 concerns, and supply chain problems might impact Americans’ shopping strategies, so we asked nearly 1,000 adults about their Black Friday plans.

Key Findings

  • Four out of five Americans plan to take advantage of Black Friday sales, with the vast majority (87 percent) hunting bargains mostly online. Last year, 57 percent planned to do most of their shopping online.
  • COVID-19 still has more than half of adults nervous about in-person shopping, and only 37 percent will return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits.
  • Nearly 50 percent of American shoppers plan to spend more on holidays this year compared to 2020, with the average budget climbing 15 percent. Last year, just 10 percent of shoppers planned to spend more.

Black Friday Concerns and Shopping Plans

Traditionally, Black Friday sales are as integral to Thanksgiving as family, football, and turkey. This year will be no different, with 80 percent adults poised to partake in the shopping.

Of course, this year has been unlike most others, and the virus continues to alter how consumers pursue their bargains. Only 37 percent of adults will return to pre-COVID shopping habits this year.

Will you return to your pre-pandemic shopping plans this year?
Yes Maybe No
37% 18% 46%

Pandemic problems have rippled through retail, overloading supply chains and transportation networks already hampered by workforce shortages. This cascade of crises has left shelves empty, ports jammed, deliveries running late and consumers greatly concerned.

Eighty-six percent of Black Friday shoppers are worried that one or more of these issues will impact their shopping.

Percentage of shoppers feeling concerned about the following factors
Desired items being out of stock due to limited supply 72%
Shipping delays on purchased items 65%
COVID-19 exposure while shopping 51%

To avoid shortages and deadlines, as well as enclosed spaces, many Americans will shop early and online. Around 78 percent of all prospective Black Friday shoppers will use the internet at least partially, which is a significant increase from last year. Two in three shoppers this year will shop exclusively online.

Black Friday shopping locations 2020 2021
All or mostly online shopping 57% 87%
At least some in-store shopping 30% 26%

While the number of people planning to shop in stores declined slightly this year, younger adults are more likely than older adults to shop in-person this year. This is likely attributable to elevated COVID-19 concerns and risks for older Americans.

Among the one in three adults shopping the holiday sales in-person, 37 percent plan to start on Thanksgiving Day, and nearly half will wait until Black Friday proper.

When will you start your in-person shopping?
Thanksgiving Day before the meal 6%
Thanksgiving Day after the meal 18%
Midnight on Thanksgiving Night 13%
Black Friday 49%
Saturday or Sunday 13%

However, the day of the doorbuster isn't completely dead: 18 percent of in-person shoppers will line up before stores even open. That enthusiastic group represents only 5 percent of all adults in our study, so perhaps this hard-core tradition is fading.

With a clearer picture of how Black Friday consumers will be shopping, let's take a closer look at how they'll be spending.

Holiday Spending Will Rebound, Benefitting Major Retailers and Tech Makers

As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic recession, Americans are ready to loosen their purse strings. Half of all Black Friday shoppers will spend more on the holidays in 2020 than they did in 2021. A quarter will spend the same amount this year, and another quarter say they will spend less. Last year, just 10 percent of shoppers planned to increase their spending.

Compared to last year, will you spend more or less this year on holiday shopping? 2020 2021
Less 42% 26%
Same 48% 25%
More 10% 49%

About 65 percent of shoppers have set a specific holiday budget, with the median amount of $300. This is fifty percent higher than last year’s median of $200. Most will spend less than $400, but some are ready to splurge.

How much money do you expect to spend this year on holiday shopping?
$200 or less 28%
$201 - $400 25%
$401 - $600 22%
$601 - $800 7%
$801 - $1000 9%
More than $1000 10%

This generosity will be spread among the usual array of retailers, with the expansion of online activity especially benefitting Amazon. The e-commerce behemoth was listed as the primary Black Friday retailer by 56 percent of shoppers. This is almost five times the frequency of second-place Walmart (12 percent).

When respondents chose their top three Black Friday retailers, a more comprehensive picture emerged.

Which retailers will you shop the most for Black Friday?
(up to 3 choices were allowed)
Amazon 72%
Walmart 41%
Target 34%
Best Buy 27%
Kohl's 8%
Macy's 6%
Costco 4%
eBay 4%
Etsy 3%
Newegg 3%
The Home Depot 2%
American Eagle Outfitters 2%
Sam's Club 2%

Others registering notable support included Nordstrom, JCPenney, H&M, Ulta, and Apple.

Savvy shoppers know which products are best to buy in November, and 68 percent will have a specific list in mind. The item atop more than half of those lists (55 percent) will be some sort of electronic device, with clothing, appliances, and toys all continuing to prove popular.

Top item on your Black Friday shopping list
Computer/Tablet 18%
Clothing 14%
TV 14%
Appliance/Housewares/Tools 10%
Video Game 9%
Toys 7%
Audio Gear 5%
Electronics (general) 4%
Furniture 4%
Smart Phone / Smart Watch 4%
Not sure 6%
Other 5%

Conclusion: Conditional Optimism

Another year under COVID-19 has been trying and stressful, featuring effects that affect even the holidays. Shopping, in particular, has been threatened by uncertain finances, logistical challenges, and social distancing requirements.

Black Friday 2021 promises signs of recovery.

Our research showed that though consumers aren’t ready to return to pre-pandemic practices, they are prepared to shop early and often. A strengthening economy and online shopping will drive expanded spending, starting with a blizzard of Black Friday sales.

So long as supply chains hold up and delivery trucks keep on rolling, there will be plenty of smiles and gifts brightening the holidays as we move closer to prosperity and normalcy.

Methodology

In early November 2021, we conducted an online survey of 991 American adults concerning their shopping plans, worries, spending budgets, favorite retailers, and most coveted items ahead of Black Friday sales. Black Friday falls on November 26th this year.