In-store shopping on Black Friday down 52.1% year-over-year

Marianne Wilson
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Traffic plunged in stores on the official start of the holiday shopping season even as it set new records online.

In-store traffic on Black Friday fell by 52.1% compared to 2019, according to preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions. Shopper traffic also decreased 45.2% week-to-date (Sunday, Nov. 22 to Friday, Nov. 27) compared to the same period last year.

The drop was not unexpected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended that Americans shop online the day after Thanksgiving as opposed to crowding stores and many retailers had made their doorbusters and other holiday promotions available online. 

“Due to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, shoppers were more purposeful in their in-person Black Friday shopping, causing significantly less crowds than we’ve seen in the past,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting, Sensormatic Solutions. “As we approach Super Saturday, Dec. 19, and corresponding shipping deadlines, we expect to see some of the in-store traffic that didn’t materialize on Black Friday appear as consumers wrap up their holiday shopping and make last-minute purchases.”

The typical peak time for shopping on Black Friday remained the same this year, hitting at about 2 p.m., according to Sensormatic Solutions. 

Not surprisingly, shopper traffic declined dramatically on Thanksgiving Day — down 94.9% compared to last year — as many retailers, including Target and Walmart, and shopping malls opted to close their doors this year to prevent crowds and give employees more time with their families.

“Additionally, with Black Friday deals being spread throughout the holiday season, the typical holiday traffic peaks are flattening, with more days sharing importance throughout the season,” Field said. 

Sensormatic Solutions still expects the 10 busiest shopping days in 2020 to account for 34.2% of all holiday traffic as compared to 46.5% in 2019.