By Nathalie Voit

Retail traffic on Black Friday declined 28.3% compared to 2019, as spending increased online and consumers began shopping earlier in the holiday season, advance data from global retail solutions firm Sensormatic Solutions found. 

In-store shopping on Black Friday was up 47.5% from last year, Sensormatic said. However, foot traffic still fell short of its pre-pandemic levels. Visits to physical stores on Thanksgiving Day were down 90.4% compared to 2019, Sensormatic found.

“It’s clear shoppers are shopping earlier this season, just as they did last season,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting at Sensormatic Solutions. 

According to Field, shoppers are spreading their savings throughout the season due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 virus and supply chain apprehensions. 

“While in-store shopping is still not back to 2019 levels, more shoppers felt comfortable visiting stores in person this Black Friday than in 2020,” Field said. “One driver of this increased traffic could be ongoing supply chain challenges and shipping delays, which are resulting in consumers shopping earlier to ensure their gifts arrive on time.” 

Warnings from experts to “Shop Now!” as opposed to waiting in conjunction with widespread and widely advertised shipping delays arising from bottleneck constraints motivated Americans’ earlier holiday spending this year. The unusual combination of advance holiday shopping meant less-than-stellar sales performance for retailers on Black Friday. 

However, the day after Thanksgiving is still considered the busiest day of the year for retailers. Sensormatic said that foot traffic on Black Friday peaked from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. this year, just as it has in past years.

Meanwhile, sales on Thanksgiving Day slumped this year compared to 2019 as more and more retailers like Target, Macy’s, and Kohl’s closed to observe the holiday. 

The firm expects greater-than-usual holiday shopper traffic in the days leading up to Christmas and on Dec. 26, although overall in-store traffic this season is expected to fall by 10% to 15% compared to 2019. 

Sensormatic expects Saturday, Dec. 18, or “Super Saturday,” to be the second busiest shopping day this season, followed by the Thursday before Christmas. 

According to Sensormatic Solutions 2021 Holiday Consumer Sentiment Survey, nearly two in three U.S. consumers plan to shop in-store this holiday season.