HIGH POINT — Though COVID-19 numbers have dropped and many mask mandates in public spaces are ending at least for now, the pandemic appears likely to keep Black Friday shopping crowds at least a little smaller than they used to be, according to the latest High Point University Poll.

The poll found that 28% of the 968 North Carolinians who were surveyed Oct. 22-Nov. 4 said they plan to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday because it’s the start of the shopping season that is most profitable for retailers. More than half (58%) said they will not shop on Black Friday this year, while 14% were unsure.

In 2019, the last HPU Poll before the pandemic reached North Carolina, 38% said they would shop on Black Friday, and 53% said they would not.

At the same time, the poll found a shift in favor of more online shopping: Only 18% plan to do most of their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, down from 24% in 2019, while 37% plan to do most of their shopping online, up from 32% in 2019.

Shoppers have been shifting more of their spending online since long before the pandemic, but more than half (55%) of survey respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic affected their decision about where to shop at least a little, and 19% said it affected their decision a lot.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed (31%) said they also planned to start shopping earlier than usual this year, which Daniel Hall, interim dean of the Earl N. Phillips School of Business at HPU, said may also be due to supply chain problems making it harder to find some items.

“Along with the ongoing return to normalcy, we see some return to brick-and-mortar shopping,” Hall said. “This return, however, is not happening on Black Friday.”

When it comes to spending, 33% in the new poll said they will spend less on the holidays than last year, while 42% said they will spend about the same amount and 21% said they will spend more.

The average amount people expected to spend on gifts, food, decorations and other items related to the holidays has decreased by more than $200, from $949 in 2019 to $744 this year.

A majority (54%) said the pandemic had at least some effect on how much they expected to spend.