Black Friday 2019 post-game assessment: Year-on-Year uplifts

by Brian Field on 12-11-19

European countries experienced Year-on-Year traffic uplifts on Black Friday. However, our shopper visit data for retail stores and shopping centers in the US indicates a combined -3.6% decline for the two-day period of Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to last year.

There is no longer one way to shop on Black Friday. As omnichannel retail and online shopping continue to grow in popularity, consumers turned to emerging fulfilment solutions, like buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), this year. As a result of these shopping options, there is a rise of intentional shoppers in-store. During exceptionally busy times, these customers are more intent on purchasing and less on just browsing, making their BOPIS pickup when the stores aren’t as crowded.

ShopperTrak data confirms the power of the Black Friday promotion.

Black Friday, which fell on 29th November, has once again encouraged consumers to hit the shops, our data confirms. Although eschewed by some brands, especially across Europe, Black Friday does represent a huge annual opportunity for retailers, both online and in the physical space. Year-on-Year traffic uplifts were achieved in many countries this year, largely due to the timing of Black Friday close to the end of the month.

Black Friday 2019 YoY traffic growth across the US and Europe


In the US:

Our shopper visit data for retail stores and shopping centers in the US indicates a combined -3.6% decline for the two-day period of Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to last year. We saw a -0.8% decrease in traffic on Thanksgiving Day and a -4.4% decrease in traffic on Black Friday versus 2018. Additionally, there was a small shift of in-store traffic away from the beginning of the week and into both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, dispelling the idea that in-store traffic is moving away from the holiday and farther into November.

Black Friday spending online hit $7.4 billion in the US, the largest online Black Friday total ever, according to Adobe Analytics. Yet the fact remains that for the US retail calendar, Black Friday continues to be one of the busiest in-store shopping day of the year, as our data confirms.

According to Coresight Research, US retailers harnessed technology to update shopper experiences in stores on Black Friday 2019. “Stores this year offered automated displays, cell phone chargers, digital payment options, self-checkout and ‘Buy Online, Pick Up in Store’ kiosks,” their review states.

In Germany:

German stores and shopping centers saw Year-on-Year traffic leap +11.7% on Friday 29th November, suggesting that more shoppers participate when the event falls later in the year – after pay day for many. In 2018 Black Friday took place on 23rd November, six days earlier. For 2019 the benefits were felt in Germany on Saturday 30th November too, which saw a +9.8% YoY uplift.

In the UK:

Black Friday shopper traffic increased by +6% compared to 2018. This is against a back drop of Brexit uncertainty, and a late general election, neither of which appear to have dampened consumers’ desire for a promotion. Saturday and Sunday of the Black Friday weekend also saw Year-on-Year uplifts – again likely to have been helped by the timing of the event.

In France:  

French retailers enjoyed a strong Year-on-Year traffic uplift of +10% on Black Friday and an even more impressive +30% rise on Sunday 1st December. Saturday traffic was down YoY by -18.3% however, against last year’s strong performance.

In Italy:

Shopper traffic rose in Italy by +5.3% Year-on-Year on Black Friday giving retailers a welcome boost at the start of the holiday season.  However, traffic was down YoY for both Saturday and Sunday. In terms of the Top 5 predicted busiest holiday shopping days, our report shows how Black Friday is less important as a shopping day in Italy, compared to other European countries we analyzed, with Epiphany (6th January) and the Sundays before and after it being more popular.

In Spain:

Black Friday is now well established in Spain, and for 2019 traffic rose Year-on-Year by +8.9%. Sunday 1st December also enjoyed an uplift of +4.1% in stores, while Saturday was slightly down YoY. Again, this year’s ‘late’ Black Friday is thought to have helped the promotion draw crowds.

Black Friday on the world stage

Across the world more and more people are familiar with the Black Friday phenomenon. And with holiday shopping budgets being managed extra carefully in 2019, shoppers are becoming savvy about planning their gift buying well in advance of the usual peak shopping period.

According to more British consumers planned to take part in Black Friday 2019 than in 2018. Their survey found that while last year 36% of adults planned to do so, this year that number went up to 62%. Insights from eBay Advertising found that consumers were actively searching for deals up to nine days before the event, illustrating the extended timeframe of the promotion in consumers’ eyes.

Although there is anti-Black Friday sentiment growing in France, a study by RetailMeNot predicted that French shoppers would spend €5.9 billion from November 29th to December 1st of 2019, a 4.1% increase compared to 2018.

Seamless service throughout the season

No matter what the reason for busy stores, retail experts advocate using data to deliver superlative service, or risk losing customers just when sales opportunities are most bountiful.

By leveraging insight from shopper traffic trends, retailers can optimize staff scheduling decisions, carefully plan operations and store layouts in line with past shopper behavior and, crucially, know when the most lucrative power hours will strike.

This strategy ensures customers are the number one focus and also able to purchase items they want as shopper traffic increases. Prioritizing in-store customer engagement can help retailers effectively drive sales, retain customers and build brand loyalty.

It’s clear that traffic into stores and shopping centers this November 29th was given a fuel injection thanks to Black Friday promotions. The best prepared stores will have achieved the most rewarding  results, leaving shoppers satisfied, and happy to return during the rest of holiday peak trading.

Stay ahead of the competition this holiday season with traffic data insights. Download our latest report Holiday Peak Shopping 2019/20.

Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.