As Black Friday marks the beginning of holiday shopping, not just buyers but even businesses look up to it as 30 percent of total sales every year come from the holiday window. But it was different this time. With pandemic restricting visits to physical stores, sales dropped by 52 percent compared to 2019. Shoppers instead chose to order online and e-commerce sales surged by 21.6 percent.

This Black Friday, the scenes were different outside retail stores. There were no long queues or customers pushing trolleys full of goods. Instead, Walmart and Target chose to close many of its stores with traffic down by about 95 percent year on year on Thanksgiving across the U.S., according to global retail consulting firm Sensormatic Solutions. During the holiday season, retail stores are expected to have a 22.5 to 25 percent reduction in traffic compared to last year.

"We knew Black Friday traffic was going to be down. We just didn't know how much it was going to be down. Shoppers are spreading out their shopping throughout the holiday season because of concerns about social distancing and the pandemic," Brian Field, a senior director at Sensormatic Solutions, told CNBC.

Retail shopping
Black Friday sales dropped in retail stores across the U.S. (representational image) Pixabay

Pandemic Pushes Customers Online

While millions of people traveled despite the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending them to stay home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the same didn't reflect on shopping behavior.

As experts warned about the risk of spreading the virus in indoor settings, people chose to go online, hitting a record number of sales. Customers mostly visited stores to pick up their packages with a 52 percent increase in the number.

As per Adobe Analytics, customers across the U.S. purchased around $9 billion worth of goods — around $27.50 per person — online on the day after Thanksgiving. It was a 21.6 percent surge from the previous year, making it the second-largest online spending day in U.S. history.

Only, Cyber Monday last year raked in more sales at $10.8 billion. One big factor that favored online shopping is the reduction in delivery time. In-a-day and same-day deliveries have surged compared to the last few years, making it even more feasible.

Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday sales are expected to hit record numbers this year (representational image) Pixabay

Another Record in Sight

With that in mind, analysts believe last year's Cyber Monday records could be shattered this time around, thanks to online deals that retailers started giving in early November. Holiday sales are expected to surge by 3.6 percent to 5.2 percent.

"What we're seeing this year is $1 out of every $4 this season is being spent online. And that's a marked increase from last year when it was about $1 out of every $5. That's additional billions of dollars that are being migrated online. And that's being done in a very short period of time because of the pandemic," Vivek Pandya, senior digital insights manager of Adobe told CNN Business.