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Black Friday sees record online as US shoppers stay home

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

Shoppers pass Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, an open Disney Store that is still partially boarded up from recent vandalism on Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile shopping district. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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 per cent increase over the previous record of US$7.4 billion set in 2019.

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 per cent 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.

Shoppers pass an Indigo Friday 40% Off sign Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, on Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile shopping district. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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

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.