With more consumers shopping online during the 2020 holiday season, in-store foot traffic patterns decrease on keys days.

In-store foot traffic significantly decreased to top retailers including Walmart Inc., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc. and Ulta Beauty on Black Friday 2020 compared with in-store visits last year.

Plus, all four of these merchants were closed on Thanksgiving Day, meaning their traffic plummeted on the day before, according to mobile data analytics vendor Placer.ai. These merchants had near to a 100% year-over-year decrease in foot traffic. Placer.ai foot traffic data is based on U.S. location data from an anonymous panel of 30 million devices.

With consumers avoiding crowds and indoor spaces during the 2020 holiday season because of the coronavirus pandemic, many consumers shopped online the day after Thanksgiving and over the five-day period dubbed the Cyber 5. Online sales on Black Friday hit $9.03 billion, a 21.6% year-over-year increase from $7.40 billion last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Numbers are rounded.

While a 21.6% growth is higher than 2019’s 19.0% year-over-year growth, it falls short of both Adobe’s projection (39.2% growth) and Digital Commerce 360’s projection (38.5%) for online Black Friday sales. Analysts point to heavy discounts and promotions starting in October, pulling the holiday season earlier into the year, as a reason why Black Friday’s online sales growth was slower than expected.


This smoothing out of sales is also apparent in Placer.ai’s foot traffic analysis. While shoppers may have avoided stores on Black Friday, merchants had increases in foot traffic on different days, with some increasing in the week leading up to Thanksgiving and some increasing after.

For example, on Saturday, Nov. 21, store traffic at Target was 2.8% higher year over year and up 5.3% on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Home Depot’s foot traffic increased 33% year over year on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, as well as most days leading up to Thanksgiving and immediately after. Best Buy and Walmart, however, all had foot traffic decreases in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.


Home Depot has benefited throughout the pandemic because of a variety of factors, says Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, including its status as an essential retailer and an increase in consumers upgrading their homes.


“One of the key factors driving this change is the continued orientation towards the home as people work and attend school from their homes,” Chernofsky says. “And while this caliber of the surge is likely to normalize at some point, it may not happen soon. One of other key the factors driving this surge is economic uncertainty. As a result, consumers are looking to upgrade their homes in cost-conscious ways, and focusing on upgrades to their homes as opposed to looking for new homes entirely.”

Placer.ai also notes that shoppers spent longer while in stores at Walmart, Target and Best Buy, which could indicate an increase in order size, the vendor says. For Nov. 25-Dec. 3, shopper visit duration increased 6.8% year over year for Best Buy, 4.2% for Target and 2.0% for Walmart.

“Yes, Black Friday visits were down significantly year over year, but that doesn’t mean the same thing for all retailers,” Ethan Chernofsky, Placer.ai’s vice president of marketing writes in a blog. “Many, like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, had already pushed to spread the season to other days. But, they also saw increases in visit duration indicating that we could be in store for growth that could offset if not overcome offline losses.”

Walmart is No. 3 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, Target is No. 12, Ulta is No. 67, Home Depot is No. 5 and Best Buy is No. 10.