Black Friday Shopping Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

Shoppers returned to stores on Black Friday this year, but traffic didn’t rise to meet pre-pandemic levels.
Black Friday shopping

Visits to physical stores were down 28.3% compared to 2019 levels, according to findings from Sensormatic Solutions, a retail solutions technology company. However, Black Friday did offer some good news for retailers, as more shoppers prioritized in-store shopping compared to last year. Traffic was below pre-pandemic levels, but up 47.5% from last year.

Consumers were more inclined to make in-person visits this year despite COVID-19 risks due to potential shipping delays. In addition, 65% of U.S. consumers plan to shop in-store this holiday season, so they can browse for gift ideas or see and touch products before buying. 

“While in-store shopping is still not back to 2019 levels, more shoppers felt comfortable visiting stores in person this Black Friday than in 2020,” Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting at Sensormatic Solutions, said in a statement. “One driver of this increased traffic could be ongoing supply chain challenges and shipping delays, which are resulting in consumers shopping earlier to ensure their gifts arrive on time.”

Black Friday is typically the busiest shopping day of the year, and many retailers closed their doors this year on Thanksgiving Day––a trend that began in 2020. As a result, Thanksgiving Day sales were down 90.4% from 2019 levels. Target made the move to close on Thanksgiving permanent, indicating that retailers may see the benefit of giving employees the day off to celebrate before Black Friday. Amid staffing shortages, closing may also provide some relief to the company. On Black Friday, the busiest shopping time was between 1 p.m.-3 p.m., in accordance with previous years.

The foot traffic data reveals some positive news for the retail industry, but online shopping is expected to remain strong throughout the year. The National Retail Federation anticipates 2021 will reach between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion in sales for the year, in addition to an increase of shoppers during the holiday season.