Black Friday is rapidly approaching, and with it, questions of whether the holiday retail season will fulfill its unique 2021 potential.
How could the season play out? We dove into the data to break it down.
2020’s Starting Point
Black Friday, known traditionally for the mass outpouring of brick and mortar retail enthusiasm, was better defined in 2020 as ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong’. Following weeks of improvement in overall retail, rising COVID cases in November created severe limitations for even the top offline retailers. As a result, visits were down significantly compared to the year prior.
And though concerns may linger after the difficulties of last year, there are significant reasons for optimism in 2021. While visits were on the decline heading into Black Friday 2020, the timing this year is lining up perfectly. COVID cases are on the decline and retail visits are showing significant strength, likely resulting from pent-up demand for the holiday retail season.
Looking at overall retail weekly visits shows that traffic has been strong compared to the equivalent weeks in 2019 since the week beginning October 4th. And the four weeks since October 11th have shown an average increase of over 4% compared to their 2019 equivalents – indicating that the pace is actually picking up.
Looking at top brick and mortar retailers only reinforces the optimism, with Target, Walmart, and Best Buy all showing visits up compared to the equivalent weeks in 2019. Since the week beginning October 4th, Target has averaged a massive weekly visit increase of 12.5% nationwide, while Walmart and Best Buy have seen average increases of 3.3% and 5.9%, respectively.
The traditional traffic crescendo into Black Friday also appears to be intact. Visits to these three retailers have increased consistently week over week since early October, indicating that visits are rising into Black Friday weekend.
And it isn’t just the kings of brick and mortar retail that are seeing strength. Looking at visits to Macy’s and JCPenney on Saturday November 6th and Sunday November 7th shows massive increases in traffic compared to the previous five weekends. This further deepens the notion that the holiday season offers unique potential in the brick and mortar environment, but also that the normal seasonality of the holiday season with its standard Black Friday peak could reappear. It also shows that key days off still provide an outsized draw for retail visits.
But one big question that does remain unanswered is whether the early visit jumps indicate that visitors are looking to finish with their holiday shopping earlier than usual. Should this hold true, the potential does exist for lower Black Friday numbers, even though the wider holiday season could see a boost.
A final area to watch is the mall sector – the home for many top tier apparel and beauty brands. Monthly visits for the Placer Mall Index – which analyzes visits for 100 top tier malls throughout the country – shows that visits were up in October compared to the same month in 2019.
And while sustaining that comparative growth will be especially challenging in November and December, visits do appear to be picking up heading into the heart of the holiday season. Apart from the week beginning October 25th, visits have been rising week over week since late September. This is especially important as mall success could equal a lift for the brands across the apparel, dining, and entertainment spaces that are heavily embedded in the format.
Will the holiday season witness a renewed Black Friday vigor? Will the wider season succeed even as this key shopping day takes a step back?
Visit Placer.ai to find out.