Black Friday’s shopper plunge just the start of a quieter season

Black Friday's shopper plunge just the start of a quieter season

America’s still shopping this Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re doing it on our covid-safe couches, not in ghost-town stores.

The number of shoppers who set foot in retail stores on Black Friday plunged 52 percent below what it was last year, one retail analyst said.

Shopper foot traffic also fell 45.2% for the week compared to same period last year, according to Sensormatic Solutions, a retail analytics provider.

And on Thanksgiving Day, brick-and-mortar shopping went into freefall, with a 95 percent drop from last year, largely because so many stores bucked recent trends and remained closed on the holiday.

The numbers aren’t really a surprise, given the pandemic and the record-breaking surge in online shopping that it’s driving.

“Shoppers told us that they were not going to be shopping on Black Friday,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for Sensormatic.

He noted that many stores tried to quell rowdy crowds by not offering “doorbuster” specials that typically pack people in.

In fact, with lower inventories on hand, expect fewer steep discounts overall this year.

Field expects foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to fall by around 25 percent over the six-week holiday shopping season, and also predicts consumers will try to time trips to avoid the usual crowds on busy evenings and weekends.

“They’re going to be shopping at other, more opportune times,” he said.

The top 10 shopping days of the season usually account for about half of all foot traffic in stores, Field said, but this year will likely represent just 32 percent.

One thing that might push people into stores, however, is early shipping deadlines for online orders, as delivery companies are already nearing their capacity limits.

“As we get to that period where we’re worried about delivery not being in time for Christmas Day, more people will come to the store,” he said.