By Sarah Nassauer and Suzanne Kapner
Roughly half as many people visited stores on Black Friday as
they did last year, according to research firms that measure foot
traffic, as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the yearslong
shift to online shopping.
Web shoppers on Amazon.com Inc. or Best Buy Co. could get many
of the same deals that stores once dangled only to those who lined
up overnight. Those who did venture out made fewer stops and
increasingly turned to big-box chains like Walmart Inc. and Target
Corp. that sell everything from lettuce to Legos, according to the
foot-traffic data, shoppers and retail analysts.
Christina Preza was browsing Christmas decorations inside a
Walmart store on Black Friday. The 60-year-old executive has been
spending more money at Walmart since the pandemic started, she
said, because she is trying to limit her time inside stores for
health reasons and is shopping more online. "It's easier to buy all
in one shop because I'm going about every two weeks," she said.
The well-worn formula of one-stop shopping has proven especially
lucrative during the pandemic. Big-box stores with groceries were
deemed essential and allowed to stay open when department stores
and malls were closed. Plus, Walmart and Target already offered
curbside services in addition to online ordering.
Some of the big-box stores' pandemic advantages were on display
over the Black Friday weekend. This year many retailers closed on
Thanksgiving Day, instead offering holiday deals both online and in
stores as early as the first week of October. Online sales have
jumped, favoring Amazon and those chains with robust e-commerce
On Black Friday online sales hit $9 billion, up 22% from last
year, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures 80 of the top
100 U.S. e-commerce sites. The gain was near the low end of Adobe's
forecast, which had projected growth of between 20% and 42% from
It was the second biggest online-sales day, after Cyber Monday
2019 when sales hit $9.4 billion, according to Adobe. The firm
expects this Monday to set a new record, with online sales of at
least $10.8 billion or growth of at least 15% from last year.
Meanwhile, foot traffic to stores on Black Friday fell 48% this
year from last year, said RetailNext, which provides cameras,
software and analytics to thousands of U.S. stores and shopping
centers. Sensormatic Solutions, another tracking firm with cameras
in stores, said in-store traffic fell 52% on Black Friday compared
with last year.
Both companies said their data showed spending outpaced foot
traffic because shoppers purchased at the stores they did visit.
"Customers, if they chose to shop in stores, they chose to be a
little more thoughtful about where they wanted to shop," said Brian
Field, a senior director at Sensormatic.
Spending at physical stores fell about 30% on Black Friday,
estimates RetailNext, with apparel, footwear and jewelry all down
more than 50%. In-store spending fell the most in the Northeast,
down 52%, and least in the South, which fell 42%.
Black Friday was a continuation of a trend that has emerged
since Covid-19-related restrictions in March. Cautious consumers
are making fewer trips out of their homes and stocking up when they
do. Some are adding higher-margin items such as clothing and
cosmetics to their carts in the same places they buy groceries or
"Am I spending more at Target? Yes, exclamation point, yes,"
said Amanda Romeo, a 39-year-old inside a Target in upstate New
York with her 11-year-old daughter on Black Friday.
Ms. Romeo discovered Target's curbside pickup service for online
orders early in the pandemic and is now a heavy user, she said. She
goes to stores, often Target, as an occasional outing, she
"There is a little something for everyone. I can get milk. I can
get toilet paper," she said. "I can get this princess dress for my
niece," she said holding up a red velvet dress embellished with
The pandemic winners and losers were clear when a parade of
retailers released earnings reports in recent weeks. Target said
comparable sales, those from stores and websites operating for at
least 12 months, rose 21%, boosted by a 155% surge in online sales.
Walmart, the country's largest retailer by revenue, reported
comparable U.S. sales up 6.4% as online sales nearly doubled.
In contrast, many department stores, apparel and specialty
retailers, already weakened before the pandemic as more shopping
shifted online, are now mostly weaker. Macy's Inc. comparable sales
fell around 20% in the most recent quarter. Kohl's Corp. sales
declined 14%, and T.J. Maxx parent TJX Cos., which had strong sales
before the pandemic, reported a 3% decrease.
Shoppers are still gravitating to retailers that align with
pandemic shopping trends, such as comfy clothes and home goods,
said David Bassuk, global co-head of the retail practice at
AlixPartners. But big-box retailers are gaining market share by
offering products "the way the consumer wants it -- accessible,
easy -- and they are able to make more money at it."
Permanent store closures hit a record in the first half of the
year and several chains, including J.C. Penney Co. and J.Crew
Group, filed for bankruptcy protection. Penney is closing hundreds
of stores and selling most of its business to two big mall owners
while J.Crew emerged with new owners. Meanwhile, many small retail
businesses have also struggled to grab the same percentage of
business without robust e-commerce supply chains and
Retail executives and industry groups are pushing to keep stores
and malls open as coronavirus cases surge across the country. They
are trying to avoid, in the critical holiday season, the
restrictions and closures that crippled many chains during the
"Consumers have evolved their purchasing behavior," said Matthew
Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, an
industry group. "They are trying to limit the number of trips they
make and bundling purchases. Nevertheless, those retailers who have
a particular expertise are finding ways to compete."
Beleaguered department stores have a role to play in a
post-Covid-19 shopping world, said Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette. "There
is room for us," he said in an interview before Thanksgiving.
"Customers need help developing their styles. They look to us to
help them do that."
Write to Sarah Nassauer at email@example.com and Suzanne
Kapner at Suzanne.Kapner@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 29, 2020 14:14 ET (19:14 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.