Survey Says: Does Black Friday Really Matter Anymore?

With the continued growth of online shopping and other ways to find the best holiday deals, more consumers are choosing to avoid the crush on Black Friday.

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Buyer beware: More consumers are choosing to do their holiday shopping before and after Black Friday.Is Black Friday as important as it used to be? The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally been a huge retail sales day, but as shoppers get smarter about using online tools to sniff out and score the best deals, the importance of actually buying on the Friday after Thanksgiving may be dwindling. Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Looking for Deals

According to Accenture's Holiday Shopping Survey, 47 percent of consumers are likely to shop on Black Friday this year, compared to 52 percent last year. While that's still a substantial number, more shoppers are avoiding the Black Friday crush and buying earlier or later. Twenty-five percent of consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, while 18 percent will pick up their presents between Black Friday and Dec. 7 and 29 percent from Dec. 8-21.

Discounts and sales are "very important" for 67 percent of holiday shoppers when deciding whether to buy. In fact, of the consumers who plan to shop late in the season, 52 percent say they're waiting so they can take advantage of discounts.

Where are consumers hunting for deals? Actually, most plan to stay home -- 69 percent say they're buying their holiday gifts online this year, up from 64 percent last year.
So Much for Cyber Monday?

While millions of Americans will be watching a parade or football, and millions more will be cooking (and eating) up a storm, a growing number of folks plan to be shopping online on Thanksgiving.

Visits to the top retail websites show a repeatable pattern during the holiday season (Nov. 1 to Dec. 31), or so says the Experian Marketing Services 2010 Holiday Marketer: Benchmark Trend Report. For the past six years, Thanksgiving has actually been the most popular day of the year to visit online retail sites -- and that's projected to hold true in 2010.

What are customers doing online? Mostly, they're researching sales and deals for Black Friday. (There's also a big peak in online traffic the day after Christmas, which is the second most popular day to shop on the Web.) Experian's research shows customers are searching "Black Friday" earlier and earlier each year. I'm pretty sure some of my more organized friends were searching as early as August!

At the same time, Americans are making holiday purchases later. In 2007 and 2008, the busiest online shopping period in December was the first weekend of the month, but in 2009, the second weekend ranked higher. Apparently, faster shipping times are enabling shoppers to either wait for the best deals -- or just procrastinate.

Small Business Saturday

Let's face it: Big retailers tend to dominate Black Friday. Hoping to level the playing field, American Express OPEN has dubbed Nov. 27 Small Business Saturday. With the help of over a dozen public and private organizations, including SCORE, NAWBO, Facebook and Yelp, Small Business Saturday's goal is to drive shoppers to local merchants.

Spending locally is important -- for every $100 spent in locally owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures, according to the 3/50 Project, a small-business advocacy group.

American Express is giving $100 of free Facebook advertising to 10,000 business owners who sign up at www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday to help build online buzz and drive customers to their businesses. American Express is also giving a $25 statement credit to 100,000 American Express cardholders who register their cards and use them on Small Business Saturday at any local small business.

For more information and to get free online promotional tools, visit www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday or
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.

Tags: American Express OPEN, Amex OPEN, best Black Friday deals, Black Friday, Black Friday deals, Black Friday shopping, Business Trends, Cyber Monday, online coupons, online deals, online shopping, Rieva Lesonsky, Small Business Saturday, Survey Says

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