Black Friday online shopping on track to hit record as holiday shoppers skip stores, Adobe says

People look at jewelry at Macy’s Herald Square during early opening for the Black Friday sales in Manhattan, New York, November 27, 2020.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Online sales on Black Friday are on track to reach a record high this year, as bargain hunters combed websites for deals and avoided stores during the coronavirus pandemic, according to preliminary data from Adobe Analytics.

As of late Friday, online sales were on pace to amount to between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion, an increase of between 20% and 29% from last year, depending on how many shoppers make purchases late into the night. Nearly 42% of sales came from smartphones as of 4 p.m. ET, a 7% increase over last year.

The data indicates the one-day holiday sale, typically associated with an in-store shopping frenzy of long lines and the pursuit of coveted gift items, played out mostly online. With the surge in Black Friday online shopping, U.S. consumers will have spent at least $6.2 million per minute on the day of holiday sales, according to Adobe.

Adobe anticipates that Cyber Monday will become the largest online sales day in history, totaling between $11.2 billion and $13 billion in online sales — a 19% to 38% year over year increase.

Online sales also hit a record on Thanksgiving Day, jumping 21.5% to $5.1 billion, according to Adobe. The company analyzes website transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. Nearly half of those sales came from smartphones. Retailers also got a boost in sales if they offered curbside pickup. Companies that offered the faster alternative to getting a package delivered to customers’ homes had a 31% higher conversion rate of traffic to their sites. 

With many retailers starting holiday sales in October and putting some of their deepest discounts on their website, shoppers had less of a reason to head to stores in person this Black Friday. Stores and malls reflected more fewer brick-and-mortar sales, with fewer lines and emptier parking lots than holiday sales events of the past.

Pandemic-related restrictions and Covid cases also shaped behavior. Shoppers were more likely to buy gifts online if they lived in states with Covid-19 restrictions around family gatherings. Adobe saw 3.4 times higher year over year growth in online shopping in those areas on Thanksgiving Day compared with states with less restrictions.

During Black Friday, the best-selling toys were Star Wars items, Hot Wheels, Nerf toys and video games including Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Madden NFL 2 and NBA 2K21. In the electronics category, Apple AirPods, air fryers and Amazon Fire TV were the top sellers.

Toys and personal care products were among the strongest categories for spending, according to Adobe. Online spending on toys shot up 294% and rose 278% on personal care products compared with October daily averages. Sales of office supplies and bedding grew by 114% and 109%, respectively.

Although spending picked up for apparel on Thanksgiving Day, compared with the average daily spending retailers saw in October, it is still below last year’s levels. Sweaters and other clothing aren’t topping gift lists as many Americans work from home and opt for casual clothing, Adobe found.

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