Shoppers head to brick-and-mortar stores to check off their holiday lists

Retail stores act as a central hub for in-person shopping, order fulfillment and brand marketing

December 02, 2021
  • Keisha Virtue

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Consumers head back to stores on Black Friday

Black Friday showed how much shoppers missed visiting stores in-person for the holidays. Store traffic rose 61% this Black Friday compared to last year, although traffic was down 27% from 2019. Mall of America saw nearly 100,000 shoppers by early afternoon Friday - more than double from last year.

Concerns over out-of-stock merchandise and shipping delays may have prompted more consumers to head to stores rather than playing roulette with online ordering. I had an Amazon merchant cancel my order for a giant plush Clifford the Big Red Dog – my daughter’s new obsession since watching the movie at iPic - because it went out of stock. More shoppers are also placing orders online for in-store pickup to guarantee wish-list items without paying for shipping.

Clifford the Big Red Dog - Image source: Amazon

Pent-up demand and more free cash pushed average transaction value per shopper up 18% than 2019, which put overall sales at just 5% lower than two years ago. Sales surged 29.8% year-over-year through mid-afternoon, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Clothing and shoes – the most popular self-gifting category – saw particularly strong numbers, with footwear 86.1% higher and apparel 74.7% higher than Black Friday 2020.

Black Friday e-commerce sales decline for the 1st time 

Adobe reported that Black Friday online spending totaled $8.9 billion, which was slightly lower than 2020’s $9 billion. This is the first drop in Black Friday online spending since Adobe started tracking this metric in 2012. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day were flat from 2020 at $5.1 billion. Since retailers offered holiday deals even earlier this year (some at the start of October), we may see a more protracted holiday shopping season than in prior years. There is also no doubt that consumers, tired of staying at home and looking forward to touching and seeing products in person, are opting to shop inside stores.

Online sales are still expected to show strong numbers by the end of the year. So far this holiday season (technically Nov. 1 to Dec. 31) consumers have spent $89.9 billion online and are on track to hit $207 billion.

Net store openings will hit more than 4,000 this year

All signs point to stores reclaiming more shopper visits and spending. Retail foot traffic for the week ending November 14 is up 5.2% from the same time in 2019. Stores are also becoming essential in fulfilling e-commerce orders as well as attracting new customers in a more cost-effective way than online. Given that retail leases are becoming shorter and more flexible, even previously committed pure-play brands like Untuckit are opening stores to boost revenue and brand awareness. 

This year, retailers will open more stores than they close for the first time since 2017. After seeing a net loss of 6,573 stores last year, 900 U.S. retail chains will contribute to net positive 4,361 store openings this year .

House of Sport - Image source: Dicks Sporting Goods

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods is opening new concepts including House of Sport, Public Lands and Golf Galaxy stores that have interactive features such as batting cages, rock-climbing walls and putting greens.
  • Levi Strauss plans to open 100 “next generation” stores in the U.S. in the next three-to-five years. These stores will be smaller and have tailor shops where consumers can customize their apparel. They will also have mobile checkout and use AI to stock merchandise according to local tastes.
  • Untuckit, which started as a pure-play online retailer and never planned to open bricks-and-mortar stores, now has 88 physical locations with plans to increase to 150 stores in the next two-to-three years.
  • Footwear and apparel retailer, Allbirds, reported that it may be opening hundreds of new locations.

Contact Keisha Virtue

Senior Analyst, Research - Retail