• Retail Dive

Black Friday foot traffic down more than 52%

By Ben Unglesbee

Published Nov. 30, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • While online sales exploded during the Thanksgiving weekend, trips inside brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday dropped off significantly, as many analysts anticipated.

  • According to data from Sensormatic Solutions, shopper visits to physical stores on Black Friday fell 52.1% from last year. Online sales, meanwhile, hit a new record with $9 billion, up 21.6% over 2019, Adobe Analytics said.

  • With many retailers opting to stay closed on Thanksgiving, physical traffic on the holiday fell nearly 95%, according to Sensormatic.

Dive Insight:

With COVID-19 cases hitting new highs, it comes as little surprise that many shoppers opted to stay away from physical stores this year. That said, the differences between Black Friday 2020 and those that preceded it were stark.

"Our traditional store checks over the holiday weekend were like none other we've ever experienced in our lifetime — no hustle and bustle, no lines at the register," said MKM Partners Managing Director Roxanne Meyer in an emailed research note.

Retailers have anticipated and prepared for that, even nudged consumers into changing up their holiday shopping plans to keep them from packing into stores.

Major players like Walmart and Target have been spreading Black Friday-like discounts through the month of November and encouraging online purchases and curbside pickup. Many also followed Amazon's lead by launching online sales events in October, which pulled holiday purchases into the month and heralded the beginning of the holiday shopping spree.

Black Friday still had a major impact. Sales in the U.S. were up 177% Friday against their October average, according to Criteo data emailed to Retail Dive. By category, fashion was up 240%, consumer electronics were up 359% and home goods were up 148%.

However, year-over-year Black Friday sales were down 5%, meaning that even the online sales surge couldn't fully make up for the lost foot traffic. Criteo's data shows, however, that the prior weeks' discounting may have affected sales on Black Friday itself — which was the plan among retailers all along. Sales in the first three weeks of November were up 7% year over year, Criteo said.

Observers found lines leading out of stores on Black Friday, but their length was due to social distancing and in many cases they led to stores that were capping foot traffic as a pandemic safety measure.

Analysts with B. Riley Securities said they found through mall checks of specialty and apparel retailers they cover that Aerie, Lululemon and L Brands' Bath & Body Works represented some of the most post-purchase bags consumers were carrying around.

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