Pandemic Lures Record Numbers of Black Friday Shoppers Online

Black Friday 2020 is already one for the record books as the pandemic prompts consumers to crack open their laptops and virtual wallets in record numbers.

Black Friday 2020 already is proving to be one for the record books as the pandemic has prompted consumers to crack open their laptops and virtual wallets, choosing safety and comfort over door-crasher deals and large crowds.

Thanksgiving Day spending rose by nearly 22% year on year to $5.1 billion, hitting a new record, according to Adobe Analytics data. Online sales were $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day in 2019. 

With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing millions to upend their traditional Thanksgiving holiday plans, with brick-and-mortar stores limiting the number of people allowed inside and with people themselves looking to avoid crowds, consumers are going online in search of Black Friday deals and discounts, according to Adobe's analysis of traffic on U.S. retailers’ websites.

And they are finding them. Adobe is expecting online sales to shatter all records this year, with shoppers expected to spend as much as $10.6 billion online on Black Friday, 39% more than this day last year. 

“Retailers of all sizes appear to have successfully moved shoppers to buy earlier in the season with early discounts and effective promotions,” Adobe said. Indeed, even before the Thanksgiving holiday, which came later this year, online sales had already exceeded $62.5 billion, a 32.6% gain from this time last year.

Just this week alone, online holiday sales already have jumped nearly 50% year on year, with more to come. E-commerce sales through the full holiday shopping season -- from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 -- are expected to total $189 billion, a 33% year-over-year gain equal to two years’ growth in one season, according to Adobe.

Cyber Monday also is expected to draw records virtual crowds, with shoppers expected to spend $12.7 billion, 35% more than in 2019, Adobe said.

Part of the reason is consumer resilience, which despite the pandemic has remained strong thanks to record-low interest rates, a booming stock market and a resilient housing market - bookended by a rebound in employment from the March and April lows.  

The National Retail Federation has predicted that holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% this year from 2019 to a total of between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion, up from last year's 4% gain that totaled $729.1 billion.

Of that amount, NRF expects that online and other non-store sales will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year. 

“Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year," said NRF CEO Matthew Shay.

While some big-box chains such as Walmart  (WMT) - Get Report, Target  (TGT) - Get Report, Home Depot  (HD) - Get Report and Best Buy  (BBY) - Get Report have been able to stay open and log strong sales through the pandemic, many have chosen to keep stores closed on Thanksgiving Day, driving more customers online in search of deals.

That too is expected to make this Black Friday one for the record books, according to consultancy firm Deloitte, which is expecting 61% of shoppers to make their Black Friday purchases online compared to 54% who venture out.

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