How retail fared on the biggest shopping weekend of the year, in a pandemic 

With such a tumultuous year in retail, the industry held a collective breath as we all rolled into the Black Friday Cyber Monday 2020 weekend. Mixed predictions and surging COVID cases in the weeks leading to BFCM didn’t help assuage anxieties either. Will retailers recoup losses from earlier in the year? Can ecommerce growth cover the hit to brick-and-mortar retail? Would this be the final nail in the small business coffin? 

With BFCM come and gone, the results are mostly good. So we can all let go of that collective held breath and take a look at the data and trends we know so far. 


One of the biggest changes this year is the more drawn-out period of discounts and sales. While BFCM has always been a big bang doorbuster event, many retailers, including major players, opted to spread the promotions out. Some have been running deals as early as October. And to some extent, it worked. Holiday sales in the six weeks before Thanksgiving Day were up 13% over 2019, according to NPD Group. 

“We saw many of our retailers extending their Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend to be a week-long event and promote items with deeper discounts than they traditionally would to drive more traffic,” said Brandon Jackson, Revionics Sr Advisor, Global Strategic Consulting. “There was also a trend towards an increase in spend on paid advertisement and retargeting efforts.” 

Not only did the earlier start of the shopping season help alleviate some of the pressure on making big bucks during BFCM, it also will hopefully lighten the delivery load. With threats of shipping delays, the more early sales in the season the better. Not to mention, this year, brick-and-mortar retailers did not necessary want to draw the crowds. With social distancing measures and store capacity limitations, retailers could not rely on immense amounts of foot traffic over the weekend. Some, including Walmart, Target and Home Depot, even went as far as to close stores on Thanksgiving Day. This also meant pushing more deals online, which brings us to the next trend. 


Online sales over BFCM have seen steady growth in the last several years, and this year followed suit. With the ecommerce booms seen earlier in 2020, it’s no surprise Black Friday online sales grew by 21.6%, compared to 19.6% in 2019. Salesforce also estimated that global consumers spent 116.6 million hours shopping on Black Friday. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday reached a total of $10.84 billion in online sales, making it the biggest online shopping day ever.  

It appears that curbside pickup also had a large impact on holiday shoppers. On Black Friday, curbside and in-store pickup orders increased 52% over 2019, while retailers that offered curbside pickup saw 19% increased online sales over those that did not. Adobe predicts these numbers will go even higher later in the holiday shopping season, as expedited shipping fees become necessary for on-time arrival. 

In-store Traffic 

As you would expect, in-store traffic slowed greatly this year. Prompted by both retailer efforts and changing consumer behavior, Black Friday brick-and-mortar traffic was down 52% compared to 2019. Thanksgiving Day saw an even bigger drop with 95% less in-store traffic than last year. But this doesn’t declare the end of brick-and-mortar. As mentioned, this was partially by design as several retailers pulled back on Black Friday hours and stayed closed on Thanksgiving Day. 

“Does this mean the end of Black Friday? Probably not. But like everything in retail, the pandemic has accelerated a trend already in play, which was a year-over-year drop in store traffic over the weekend,” said Nikki Baird, Vice President Retail Innovation at Aptos. “I don’t think Black Friday store traffic will come back to the levels we saw last decade.” 

Small Business 

As for small businesses, BFCM appears to be giving some hope. At $4.68 billion, online sales on Small Business Saturday increased a whopping 30.19% over last year. In addition, Shopify announced a 50% increase this year in global consumers purchasing from independent and DTC brands on Shopify over the Black Friday Cyber Monday 2020 weekend. 

What’s Next?

Don’t expect to see a ton of heavy online promotions throughout the rest of December. Retailers are already facing package restrictions from the major postal carriers who are unable to handle the current load of shipments from BFCM purchases. Curbside pickup will continue to be a vital offering through the end of the holiday shopping season, as it offers retailers a quick, cheap and reliable way to get purchases to customers on time, while still allowing for social distancing measures. And while no one can no for sure what this time next year will look like, we can safely assume that 2020 marks the beginning of new kind of Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend.

About the author

Maisie is a content marketer and copywriter specializing in B2B SaaS, ecommerce and retail. She's constantly in pursuit of the perfect combination of words, and a good donut.