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Black Friday 2021: Store traffic rose 48% but remained lower than pre-pandemic levels

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Yahoo Finance's Brian Sozzi breaks down how retail stores did this year for Black Friday in-store and online sales.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- Welcome back to Yahoo Finance. It is Monday, November 29th or Cyber Monday. I feel like cyber still feels very dotcom bubbly. But anyway, I'll leave that as a side point. But we are getting some data about the retail sales over this hot weekend. Adobe Analytics saying that US online sales on Black Friday were $8.9 billion.

That is down, though, from $9 billion from a year ago. And Sensormatic Solutions found that Black Friday traffic at stores actually rose 48% from last year. But was 28% lower than in 2019. So let's go over to our retail expert, Brian Sozzi, Who almost got hit by a bus outside of Herald Square last week, talking about these types of trends.

But Brian, you know, these numbers are really difficult to look at. The comps are very, very tricky because of the closings that we saw in 2020. There's the VO of you, by the way, almost getting hit by that bus. Brian, what do you have to say with regards to what you saw this weekend?

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, don't cut away there. I wanted to see the bus go by me, guys. What's up with that? But no, I think-- I think what we could also toss in the scrap bin-- and maybe it is from the dotcom time or before then-- is this. These days throughout the holiday season. Black Friday, Cyber Monday. This is completely useless.

I mean, you have over that Thanksgiving weekend, as Adobe noted, sales on Thanksgiving weekend in the US online down 4.3% year over year on Saturday. On Sunday, they were down 5/10 per percent year over year. And I think the better way to look at this is how is the overall month started yet for the shopping season.

And if you look online here, Adobe saying that sales through the first 21 days of the shopping period-- that is November 1st through November 28th-- sales online are up 13.6% year over year. That is pretty good. So you take those volume gains. And I think, you know, we were talking a little bit about this in the morning meaning here, guys. Not a lot of discounts out there.

So you have a pretty strong volume online. I would say I would counter some of that traffic data. I went to a lot of malls, talked to a lot of people over the weekend. My contacts in industry traffic look to be good in the malls. You take what could be strong volume, you take retailers pulling back on promotions. In some cases, significantly. Most notably in the apparel sector. And I would say, I would argue, that the holiday season has started very well for the retail sector. And you might actually see some earnings beats.

- Yeah, something else I just want to mention. You know retailers and various, you know, pundits have been saying shop early, shop early, shop early. So you have to think that there was some level of that that also affected the cadence of buying over the holiday weekend, right. If all of these people did, indeed, listen and shop early, then that means they weren't shopping then, right. So I just think that you can't make the apples to apples comparison.

Even-- even if the pandemic had not happened, already we were seeing pretty fundamental changes in the rhythm of buying during the holiday season because of online shopping. Just because people weren't concentrating the buying like they once were. And then, layer on the pandemic on top of that and supply chain shortages, and I think it's very tough to-- to make comparisons to quote unquote normal times, right. So I think we have to keep that in mind as we're looking on these-- looking at all of these numbers.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, what stores were empty? I went to a couple of malls. It's GAP. You know, we were joking around last weekend. Just really hammering that management team for a terrible quarter and outlook. The stores were empty. And I didn't see a lot of people in there.

Where I did see people, again, like always, Apple stores. Very crowded. You had Foot Locker, very crowded. I would even say a COACH and a Michael Kors look well trafficked. So you're starting to see that there could be some winners emerging here outside of the likes of Target and Walmart.

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