American consumers, staying home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, spent $9 billion online, a 22 percent increase over the same day in 2019, according to Adobe Analytics.

People visit Macy's Herald Square during early opening for the Black Friday sales in Manhattan, New York, US on November 27, 2020.
People visit Macy's Herald Square during early opening for the Black Friday sales in Manhattan, New York, US on November 27, 2020. (Reuters)

Black Friday online sales have hit a new record this year as pandemic-wary Americans filled virtual carts instead of real ones.

Consumers spent an estimated $9 billion on US retail websites on Black Friday, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online shopping. That was a 22 percent increase over the previous record of $7.4 billion set in 2019.

It said Friday's sales were surpassed only by those of last year's Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, when the focus is on online sales.

Meanwhile, traffic to physical stores plummeted as retailers tried to prevent crowds by cutting their hours and limiting doorbuster deals. US store visits dropped by 52 percent on Black Friday, according to Sensormatic Solutions, a retail tracker.

Traffic was slower in the Northeast and West than in the Midwest and South, said Brian Field, Sensormatic's senior director of global retail consulting.

Jewellery and footwear saw some of the biggest in-person sales declines, according to RetailNext, a shopping tracker. Apparel sales were down 50 percent, while sales of home goods fell by 39 percent.

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Biggest in-person shopping days

Even with that drop, Black Friday will still likely end up as one of the biggest in-person shopping days in the US  this year, Field said. He thinks many people will still shop for the holidays in person, but will choose mid-week days when crowds are smaller.

Heavier in-store discounts and concerns about lengthy shipping times could also draw shoppers closer to Christmas.

“Black Friday had a lot to lose, but some of it is going to be distributed throughout the holiday season,” Field said.

One trend that could remain after the pandemic ends is that stores could remain closed on Thanksgiving Day, Field said. Since 2013, a growing number of stores had opened on Thanksgiving to match their competitors and get a jump start on Black Friday. But it's typically not a big day for retailers, and this year many stayed closed. Thanksgiving store traffic was down 95 percent, he said.

Field said stores may be rethinking the cost of paying employees and opening on Thanksgiving when they could easily make up for those sales online.

“I wonder, now that we're seeing a season where they were able to cut the cord on it, if it will give them pause,” he said.

This Monday, with the usual surge of Cyber Monday spending amplified by the Covid effect, analysts are predicting an all-time record.

Adobe expects an estimated spending of $10.8 billion to $12.7 billion.

One reason for the big numbers is that people are shopping online for things such as groceries and alcohol that they bought in person before the pandemic, Adobe said.

As for more traditional gifts, Hot Wheels cars, Lego sets, Apple AirPods, Samsung televisions and video games are among the biggest sellers.

Big retailers such as Walmart and Target benefited from the surge, but small retailers did as well, Adobe said. Sales at big stores surged by 403 percent on Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to the daily average in October, but sales at smaller retailers also grew by 349 percent.

The National Retail Federation – pointing to optimism over Covid-19 vaccines, a strong stock market and disposable income that normally would have gone to travel or entertainment – projects a 2020 jump of between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent in overall holiday sales from last year.

READ MORE: Black Friday online sales hit record $7.4B in US

Source: AP