Black Friday Quieter In-Store But Online Gains Sharply

Preliminary reports suggest that, although sales gained online, brick and mortar retail wasn’t quite as vibrant on Black Friday as in years past, although that might be a good thing.

After all, by extending Black Friday promotions throughout November— a move turning the month, as some observers have put it, into Black November— retailers deliberately tamped down enthusiasm for big doorbuster Black Friday consumer floods inundating their stores.

According to Adobe Analytics, consumers shopping online spent $9.03 billion on Black Friday, up 21.6% versus the 2019 total, which followed on spending of $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving, up 21.5%, and proceeded spending of $4.68 billion on Saturday, up 30.2% year over year.

In contrast, a preliminary reading from Coresight Research for in-store sales based on its own November 27 store checks prompted the market research firm to characterize Black Friday 2020 as the quietest in a generation.

Coresight noted that shoppers didn’t focus on the historical doorbuster morning rush period. Instead, stores experienced a pickup in traffic after 10 a.m. and generally stronger customer volume into the afternoon and evening. In conversations with retailers, Coresight researchers confirmed expectations that total nonfood traffic would slide by about half versus the 2019 date. That being said, even if traffic was down, conversion rates appear to have gained. With inventories kept at deliberately low level, at least some retailers reduced discounting, Coresight maintained.

From the broad perspective, some research tilts toward positive readings for the 2020 holiday season as it has gone so far. For example, the NPD Retail Tracking Service, which covers apparel, athletic footwear, beauty, Blu-ray/DVD, office supplies, small appliances, technology, toys and video games, saw holiday dollar sales  for the season to November 25 grow by 13% versus the same six weeks in the year before. Video games, small appliances, technology, toys, office supplies and books led the way, according to NPD.

The majority of general merchandise sectors tracked by NPD have seen e-commerce growth, which currently represents 30% or more of total dollar sales, and more than half in technology and small appliances.

Early season shopping is important. Consumers who told NPD they would begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving weekend planned to spend $876 this year in the season while those intending to start on Thanksgiving weekend, including Black Friday and through Cyber Monday, expected spend $680. Consumers who plan to start shopping in December expected to spend about $448 in the holiday season.

NPD anticipates the top 15 growth categories on a year over year basis to be:

  • LCD TVs
  • PCs
  • Video Games Hardware
  • Tablets & e-readers
  • Tissue & Dispensers
  • Hand Held Specialty Cleaning Appliances
  • Monitors
  • Stereo Headphones
  • Paper Towels, Napkins & Dispensers
  • VR/AR Hardware & Accessories
  • Building Sets
  • Sleepwear
  • Hand Cleaners
  • Fryers
  • Fashion Dolls/Accessories & Role Play

“Retail’s focus on Black November seems to be paying off, but it remains to be seen if early sales will diminish retail’s performance over Black Friday weekend,” stated Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “While we are heading into retail’s big holiday weekend with some nice momentum, there are still several weeks ahead with many industries still looking to make up for the year’s losses. This may still prove to be a very challenging holiday season at retail, which means the focus could shift from sales volume to profit margin for those industries and retailers that are lagging.”