'Significant' Black Friday Foot Traffic Drop Needs Context, Retail Data Firm Says

Retailers suffered a "significant" drop in foot traffic on Black Friday, but this fact alone isn't enough to jump to any conclusions, according to Placer.ai. 

Black Friday Wasn't Supposed To Be Normal: Few, if any, investors and analysts were expecting 2020's Black Friday to be close to "normal" amid rising COVID-19 cases and business restrictions in many states.

Initial data on Black Friday is out, and the top six retailers saw an average decline in visits of 26.3% year-over-year, according to the retail data firm. 

Best Buy Co Inc BBY realized the largest Black Friday foot traffic decline of 43.2%, followed by Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. BBY and its 28.9% drop, Target Corporation TGT at down 26.9% and Walmart Inc WMT at down 21.2%, Placer.ai said. 

Related Link: Best Buy, Etsy Among 2020 Black Friday's Big Winners

Home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc HD saw the lowest level of year-over-year foot traffic decline at 12.7%, the firm said. 

Taking A Step Back: Big box retailers saw foot traffic gains in the days leading into and after Black Friday.

Specifically, Target saw foot traffic growth of 2.8% the Saturday before Black Friday and 5.3% growth the Tuesday before.

The day following Black Friday saw a notable improvement in foot traffic; visits were down only 10%.

Walmart saw "similarly strong numbers" in the days before and after Black Friday, and Best Buy showed "a similar pattern," according to Placer.ai.

Some retailers showed year-over-year growth in the weekend following Black Friday. Home Depot's traffic was up 14% on Saturday and up 21% on Sunday.

Also important to consider is the "quality" of the visits. Customers who visited a store on Black Friday spent more time inside the store, and basket size was likely up "significantly" from last year.

"Does this mean offline retail is going to have its best season ever? Of course not," according to Placer.ai. "Does it mean we will need to take into account the full holiday season before jumping to any conclusions about overall success?"

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