According to several reports, Black Friday 2019 offline traffic was down compared to recent years. Yet, the picture is much more complex than any overarching number. To help provide more clarity we dug into Black Friday foot traffic data and found that the results were incredibly mixed, with several brands seeing major boons while others suffered declines.
This is a significant conclusion because it challenges some key assumptions about the future of retail and Black Friday itself.
The Overall Picture
We analyzed 16 top retail brands and found that overall, traffic to these stores was up 0.8%. Yet, these numbers were buoyed by a handful of strong performances from 5 brands including Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The general picture was more accurately defined as one of slight decline. In fact, removing Nike and Dick’s from the group reduced the overall picture to a decline of 0.8% Year-over-Year on Black Friday. The biggest decline came from Bed, Bath & Beyond which saw a decline of over 11%. This was likely due to a combination of closed stores and the brand’s decision to open on Thanksgiving for the first time ever - diluting the single day urgency.
Who’s Trending Up (or Remaining Stable)
But it wasn’t all bad. Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods, who have been among the most notable brands of 2019 for their strong offline retail performance, had significant growth. This continuation into Black Friday should come as little surprise as the combination of a thriving retail asset and the urgency created through short term deals is particularly enticing for consumers. Nike saw a Year-over-Year increase of over 11% while Dick’s enjoyed a jump of over 12% on Black Friday 2018.
The giants of retail were also in play. Target saw an improvement in 2019 with visits holding steady Year-over-Year after seeing a slight drop between 2017 and 2018. The same was true for Walmart and Best Buy who saw minimal declines of 0.4% and 2.2% respectively year-over-year. For Best Buy, the bulk of the decline likely results from store closures showing that the top brands still have the ability to drive significant visits. Yet, even these declines need to be taken in context. Analyzing the period from November 2018 through November 29th, 2019 shows that Black Friday provides a huge boost to these retailers. Target visits rose 156.8% above the baseline last week, while Best Buy visits rose 557.5% above.
Beyond the obvious impact that online has on many of these businesses, there is also a clear trend towards a lesser singular impact on Black Friday resulting from a bigger impact from the wider holiday season. Walmart serves as an excellent example of this trend with late December 2018 visits actually surpassing the Black Friday heights set in 2018 and 2019. Should this hold true in 2019, Walmart will show a powerful ability to leverage Black Friday while still finding even greater impact later in the year.
Black Friday is Critical, But No Longer Singular
Black Friday 2019 was a mixed bag. Several brands that had already been trending up like Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods saw strong results. Giants like Walmart, Target and Best Buy were steady with the day continuing to mark a high point for the latter two in their retail calendars. Yet, there are still those that are failing to match the previous heights of Black Fridays past. Declines are being felt across the sector, and many former giants are looking to find new ways to re-establish themselves on Black Friday.
This leads to a critical conclusion. Black Friday is still hugely important, but the strategy needed to derive maximum value from it and the wider holiday period is changing. From eCommerce, to Buy Online Pickup In-Store, to a more holistic view of the holiday season, evolving approaches to Black Friday will define success on this day.
Black Friday has long served as the focal point for the calendars of many retailers. With 2019 data further confirming this, that status is unlikely to change even if the dominating brands do.