Record Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales as holiday shopping shifts online

By Elizabeth Dustin
BU News Service

Black Friday looked different this year as American consumers changed their annual shopping plans to make more purchases from home.

According to Adobe Analytics, Americans spent $9 billion shopping online on Black Friday this year. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday is predicted to see as much as $12.7 billion spent by consumers and is expected to make history as the day with the largest online sales to date.

This year’s Black Friday also saw an almost 22% increase in online spending and online spending on Monday was expected to increase by 35%. E-commerce also increased 18.9% the day before Thanksgiving compared to 2019 totals.

In Massachusetts, businesses, required to count customers visiting their store, cannot allow more than 50% occupants into their stores at a time, including staff. For smaller businesses this can be especially difficult to manage. 

Courtney Marchuk, the manager of On Centre, a gift shop in Jamaica Plain, said Small Business Saturday is usually a better day for them than Black Friday. 

Marchuk noted this year was different due to COVID-19 regulations. She said there were “significant lines outside” on Saturday due to occupancy limits, but the waiting customers were in “good spirits”. 

The growth in this year’s online sales mirrors the United States’ increase in online spending during the pandemic. On November 19, the Department of Commerce estimated U.S. retail e-commerce sales to hit $209.5 billion in the third quarter of 2020, a 36.7% increase compared to last year.

Part of this increase in online sales can be attributed to many Americans now purchasing essential items online rather than in stores as a public health measure. According to Adobe Analytics, online grocery shopping on Black Friday increased 397% and the purchase of personal care products increased 556% compared to October numbers.

In 2019, online grocery sales increased by 22%, and in 2020 sales are projected to jump to 40%. In March of 2020, half of consumers began buying their groceries online due to the pandemic.

Besides groceries, this year’s popular Black Friday buys included gaming consoles, video games, lego sets, Barbie toys, hot wheels, connected technology, Samsung TVs, and HP laptops.

Black Friday also looked different due to the increase in curb-side pickup, which increased by 52% from last year. Additionally, stores that offered curb-side pickup increased their online sales by 19%.

In-store shopping traffic, however, decreased by 52.1% on Thanksgiving. Many stores promoted social distancing on Black Friday and tried to limit the number of customers allowed inside.

According to Yelp late August, 163,735 US businesses have closed due to the pandemic. In an effort to save many of these small businesses, 38% of consumers said they would try to shop small during the holidays.

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