Black Friday blues

Editor’s note: Sam Killip is VP of customer success at consumer research platform Attest. 

Fast-rising inflation is making consumers scramble as they decide how much they can get away with spending this Black Friday, according to the latest data.

Black Friday 2022 research from Attest shows that more than half of Americans plan to cut back their spending this year compared to last. Many of them are being much more careful with their money due to the increased cost of living, prioritizing day-to-day expenses, making sure they have enough savings to cope with the unexpected, paying utility bills and putting gas in their cars.

It's a different outlook from one year ago. Pandemic restrictions are mostly gone, and the supply chain crisis that saw container ships queuing outside the nation's ports has passed. Worries about empty shelves seem like a distant memory; retailers may indeed be worrying about having too much stock this time around.  

There are some reasons for positivity. Marketers and insight professionals need to be aware of several key Black Friday trends to ensure brands can get the most from the event. 

Black Friday is perceived to be the biggest shopping day of the year

While the number of people planning to spend less during Black Friday this year (5%) is significant, it should be noted that 80% of respondents are planning on making at least one purchase, with a further 12% undecided. 

The perception that Black Friday is the best day of the year to find a bargain has actually increased year-on-year, with 68% of consumers agreeing with this statement in 2022, compared to 57% in 2021's report.

Consumers will be spending less and on different items

While there will be plenty of consumer activity on Black Friday, it's important for brands and retailers to understand how much consumers are prepared to spend and what they want to buy. The research shows that while the most common answer to the first part of this equation was between $300 and $500 in 2021, this time around it's $101-$200, followed by $201-$300.

Americans will also be focusing on different items. In 2021, technology was tied with clothing as the top category Black Friday shoppers were interested in (both at 68%). This year, clothing has taken the top spot at 45% (vs. tech at 41%). As technology items often have a high price point, this correlates with the expected drop in spending. It's worth noting that around a third (33%) of those who plan to make a Black Friday purchase haven't yet made up their mind about what they will buy.

Most consumers will be buying both in-store and online

To sweep up some of these undecided consumers, marketers may be wondering whether to focus on online or in-store promotions. With 44% of consumers planning to make both online and in-person purchases, the answer is both. Just under one in five (19%) will be only buying from physical stores, while 35% report they will only be shopping online. 

In terms of the retailers, Walmart is the clear favorite, followed by Amazon and Target. 

Brands and retailers may be forgiven for opting out

Outdoor specialist retailer REI announced that it will be shutting all its stores on Black Friday and giving employees a guaranteed day off. While this might seem like an unwise move on such an important shopping day, 60% of consumers back REI's move, with only 9% disagreeing with it. 

The research shows other signs that there is an element of consumer fatigue around Black Friday, with 45% thinking the promotion should only be between one-to-three days, while 28% want it limited to a single day. Brands that only undertake short Black Friday promotions – or skip them altogether – might not see the consumer backlash that you might expect. 

Consumer spending and who makes the Christmas list 

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) plan to change the way they buy gifts for family and friends this year. Some will take a more innovative approach to save money, by forgoing wrapping paper (4%) or making gifts themselves (5%). Meanwhile, 21% report they will buy gifts for fewer people in total and 20% say they will buy fewer gifts for the loved ones on their regular list.

While 15% say they will be buying much cheaper gifts for the holiday season, marketers and researchers should note that work colleagues (22%) and friends (16%) are the most likely to miss out on receiving gifts at all this year. Consumers will still be buying presents for close family members.

Marketers and researchers can be forgiven for feeling pessimistic about Black Friday and the holiday season this year as the cost-of-living crisis bites. There are some reasons for optimism for brands and retailers that focus on the right areas. The key is to understand the mind-set of American consumers at this present moment and express a fair amount of empathy for the chaotic economic times we are living through.


All figures within this article are taken from research conducted on the Attest platform. The total sample size for the Black Friday research 2022 was 1,000 nationally representative working-age consumers based in the United States. The survey concluded on October 14, 2022. The research dashboard is available here.