Pre-Black Friday Expectations Amidst COVID-19

By Thomas Price Thursday, November 26, 2020


2020 has been an extremely financially unpredictable year. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with the possibilities and hopes for another round of stimulus checks or support from the federal government in the United States, there is a sense of uneasiness about how the end of this turbulent year will play out. As 2020 winds into the holiday season, Black Friday is right around the corner, thus bringing up even more questions about what one of the biggest days for shopping every year will look like and what kind of revenue can be expected from businesses both large and small. Especially considering that many in-person retail stores will be either completely closed or working with limited capacity, there is much speculation about what lies ahead. So, what exactly are analysts and experts expecting from this year’s Black Friday, and how will most people be shopping?

What Black Friday Will Look Like in 2020

Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the varying state of different restrictions to retail shopping across the United States and the world, Black Friday in 2020 is sure to look extremely different. Perhaps the first and largest piece of news regarding the retail holiday is announcements that nearly every major store, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, and Macy’s, will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. This is a clear change of pace considering that in prior years all of these stores have been opened to kick off Black Friday sales the evening before the actual day. Many of those same names have also planned to spread out Black Friday sales throughout the coming weeks in order to reduce the possibility of overwhelming crowds while avoiding the high risk of infection among customers. Going even further, especially considering discounts from retail giants like Amazon, there is a clear focus on digital sales this year as opposed to in-person deals.

In fact, 96% of retailers are expecting a much larger portion of this year’s sales to come from online purchases for them. According to a recent survey, only 12% of shoppers plan on going to stores in person on Black Friday, with a large 49% of shoppers in a different survey planning to shop exclusively online for all holiday purchases. This is set to be an extremely positive sign for large scale retailers with established advertising and online platforms to offer deals. For brick and mortar retail stores without a large online presence and other small businesses, this Black Friday will result in no major boost in sales. Despite this, there is still a major expectation for revenue this year, even with many in-person locations remaining closed or at limited capacity.

Black Friday Sales and Revenue Expectations

Even amidst the pandemic, expectations for this year’s Black Friday revenue is set extremely high. In fact, even with the economic downturn, the National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales in the months of November and December will increase this year compared to 2019. In fact, the National Retail Federation predicts sales will boost anywhere between 3.6% and 5.2%. This will translate to a total sales revenue in the United States totaling $755.3 billion on the low end and $766.7 billion on the high end. For online sales in the United States, conservative estimates expect a 20% increase over November and December, equaling $171 billion, and a 47% increase totaling $209 billion for extremely positive estimates. While these estimates are not specific to Black Friday or even Black Friday weekend, given the staggered nature of the deals this year, it may be more accurate to look at it from a larger perspective.

Final Conclusions

While it is very clear that Black Friday will be completely different in 2020 than in any other year before, that does not mean sales will be any lower. What is slightly troubling is how well spread out those sales may be. With small businesses being potentially left out of the boom in online sales, many physical retail locations will not see the bump tow which they have grown accustomed. For large retailers or even small businesses with a strong online presence, 2020 may end up being one of the largest and most sustained rises in sales ever.

About the Author


Headshot for author Thomas Price

Tom Price is a writer focusing on Entertainment and Sports Features. He has a degree from NYU in English with a minor in Creative Writing. He has been previously published for Washington Square News, Dignitas, CBR, and Numbers on the Boards.

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