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Behavior Change
Is Black Friday Dying? Consumers Say They Want to Spend Less This Holiday Season

New GlobeScan research found that 77% of consumers are interested in choosing products that last longer, and 53% said they were interested in buying fewer things, in general. But there remains a gap between intention and action.

Black Friday remains the US’s biggest annual shopping event. Every year, some 170 million people spend big between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday — parting with an average of $335 each, on average, during the five-day period.

However, times are changing.

According to a survey carried out by Accenture, most (64 percent) shoppers are less inclined to make purchases this Black Friday than they were a few years ago. That’s a 55 percent increase on the number of people saying the same thing last year.

It is a trend no doubt being fuelled by retailers increasingly choosing to offer year-round discounts rather than focusing their sales push purely at Thanksgiving; as well as the growing movement — led by REI and other organizations — to eschew the consumeristic frenzy altogether in favor of spending quality time with family and friends outdoors.

Local measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic — as well as its impact on job security — will also deter shopping this year. Many people are still concerned for their health and they are put off by long queues to get into stores and having to wear face masks.

However, the propensity to buy less stuff — or at least thinking more carefully before making purchases — could be here to stay. That is certainly what GlobeScan’s 2020 Healthy & Sustainable Living Study suggests. Carried out in June 2020, the survey looked at the attitudes of 27,000 people in 27 markets when it comes to leading healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.

It found that 77 percent of consumers are “extremely” or “very” interested in choosing products that last longer — something seen as being “very” or “somewhat” easy to do by most (63 percent) people. 53 percent of buyers said they were “extremely” or “very” interested in buying fewer things, in general.

Consumers acknowledge a need to curb consumption

The market for “built-to-last” items, championed by the likes of Tara Button — founder of the website, Buy Me Once — continues to grow. Her website only sells products that have been researched and tested as being long-lasting — including everything from saucepans and rucksacks to jeans and pepper pots.

Button’s movement is a response to a range of fast-moving consumer goods markets, designed to promote overconsumption. For example, between 2000 and 2014, the production of clothing items doubled. At the same time, the number of fashion items bought by an individual increased by around 60 percent. It turns out that most fast fashion items are built to last for no more than 10 wearings.

The GlobeScan report findings show that consumers acknowledge a need to reduce their consumption to ensure the environment exists for future generations.

But there remains a gap between intention and action.

“Many claim they are willing to pay more for environmentally and socially responsible brands, especially younger generations. However, only around a third have rewarded a responsible company in the past year, through purchasing or advocating,” says Eric Whan, director of GlobeScan. “The proportion saying they have considered rewarding responsible companies is increasing, but there is a need to convert this inclination to actual behavior.”

A real appetite for repair-and-reuse services

The data also show that consumers want to buy responsible and certified products. In fact, 62 percent of shoppers claim to be “extremely” or “very” interested in buying from socially or environmentally conscious brands. 59 percent want to choose products or services that have been certified by a third party.

Issues such as plastic packaging waste and the recyclability of materials appear to be high on the agenda for most shoppers. The research also shows an increasing appetite for brands giving consumers the option to return items to stores — whether for reuse, repair or recycling purposes. 53 percent of consumers said they were “extremely” or “very” interested in such a service, with only 43 percent claiming it to be very easy.

Companies such as IKEA are ahead of the curve. In October, the Swedish furniture retailer announced plans to open its first secondhand store, where it will sell items that have come from recycling centres and that have been repaired or repurposed. The company hopes its pilot concept can be rolled out further, supporting its ambition to become a circular business.

The latest GlobeScan data will give companies like IKEA plenty of confidence that the market is ready and willing to support new business models. But the research also offers a warning: People want to adopt healthy and sustainable lifestyles, but it must be easy and affordable to do so.

“Consumers claim they want to become healthier, more environmentally friendly, and help others more; but they are not currently doing so to the extent that they say they would like to,” Whan adds. “This desire to change — coupled with a relative lack of follow-through — suggests opportunities for organizations to step in to enable and guide consumers.”