Discounts Drove Black Friday Foot Traffic

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Clothing stores of all shapes and sizes have had to make adjustments for the 2020 holiday shopping season, typically starting with Black Friday. Not only have they had to change the way they handle fitting room protocols and offer new services like curbside pickup, they are also changing the inventory they sell to accommodate more people staying at home. 

According to CBRE, the top category sales this holiday season will include value and luxury lounge as well as athleisure wear. NPG Group projects that sweatshirts and sweatpants will account for 31% of total US apparel spending this holiday season.

As expected, foot traffic to apparel stores was down over Black Friday weekend compared to 2019. To see how clothing retailers fared, we took a look at foot traffic to the top 10 in the U.S. We did a straight comparison on foot traffic between Black Friday weekend last year and this year (11/28/19 – 12/2/19 and 11/26/20 – 11/30/20). 

Across all 10 retailers, store visits dropped an average of 42%. Who fared best? Who took the biggest hit? We queried our proprietary geofencing marketing database. Here’s what we found.

Foot Traffic to Top 10 Apparel Retailers in US Dropped Across the Board

Black Friday Weekend 2019 to 2020 Change
TJ Maxx & Marshall’s -20.43%
Nordstrom -56.39%
Victoria’s Secret -42.02%
Old Navy -40.71%
Macy’s -47.09%
Forever 21 -47.40%
Nordstrom Rack -44.46%
Lululemon -53.02%
GAP -17.30%
Dillard’s -52.21%
Average -42.10%

The winners

Compared to the average 42% drop in foot traffic across all 10 clothing retailers, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s experienced only a 20% drop in visits between Black Friday weekends in 2019 and 2020. These stores may have not seen such a significant drop in foot traffic because they are known for value, which consumers are looking for right now. They are also one-stop shops for gifts on everyone’s list. These stores are typically stand-alone locations or found in shopping centers as opposed to malls, which most shoppers may be trying to avoid this year. 

Because of the constantly changing inventory, these stores are also well merchandised for the season and the current market. If you have been inside a TJ Maxx or Marshall’s recently, you know they have all of their comfy clothes, sweaters, and athleisure wear right up front. A strong brand reputation for shoppers getting more for less, location, and an ever-evolving inventory likely lead to TJ Maxx and Marshall’s maintaining more of their customers over this year’s Black Friday weekend than other top clothing retailers.

The brand that saw the smallest drop in foot traffic was another apparel retailer that is well known for its substantial holiday sales, GAP.  GAP is a go-to store for many gift givers as their style appeals to a broad cross section of consumers. They are also known for deep holiday discounts, and Black Friday 2020 was no different. GAP offered its in-store and online customers 60% off of their entire purchase.

The losers

Of the top 10 clothing retailers, the stores that lost the most foot traffic this Black Friday weekend compared to 2019 were at the higher end of the market: Lululemon saw a 53% decline. and Nordstrom was the worst performer with a 56% drop.  Both retailers promoted Black Friday as a shopping event and encouraged gift buying, but neither offered big sales. Specifically, Lululemon did not have any sales on top of their usual discounts, but did offer free shipping to their e-commerce customers. Nordstrom promoted their own sale items without any additional discounts. The lack of additional discounts may have led to far less foot traffic in these stores.

Macy’s, down 47%, and Dillards, down 52%, are typically anchor stores in malls, so their large drops in foot traffic may be indicative of overall mall traffic over Black Friday weekend. Both are department stores that sell more than just apparel, and their clothing inventory is similar to that of TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. These discounted retailers may actually have won over Macy’s and Dillard’s shoppers this year. One of the primary ad strategies in geofencing marketing is winning market share from the competition. TJ Maxx and Marshall’s may be employing this very strategy.

Old Navy’s foot traffic dropped more than expected — 40% — given the other patterns in pricing and discounts we found. This is surprising because they are known as a discount store, like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and ran a similar sale to GAP. Another possibility for the larger drop would be that GAP’s advertising and sales may have moved shoppers upmarket, stealing some of Old Navy’s foot traffic.  

The bottom line

Black Friday weekend shoppers are going to stores looking for deals and making significant purchases. Especially in 2020, if shoppers are going to risk exposure to Covid-19, they want to make sure that their savings are worth the risk. This is one of the drivers of larger basket sizes as well. (This is the same trend we saw in grocery at the start of the pandemic.) While the stores that saw the largest drop in YOY foot traffic may have seen decent online sales, the biggest winners of Black Friday 2020 were those with large sales or an established brand well known for deals every day and great gifts. 

While the pandemic will surely evolve in 2021, shoppers will still need to feel safe when they do return to their favorite clothing stores to browse, try on, and buy. eMarketer data shows that consumers value safety more than anything, including discounts and special events. As retail brands advertise to customers going through the holidays and beyond, it’s imperative that this concern around safety be addressed and – if stores want to see shoppers return in droves next year – the obstacle be removed.

Laura Conway is marketing manager at Reveal Mobile.

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