This year, with COVID-19 and social distancing efforts lending a wild boost to an already flourishing online shopping arena, Black Friday will be less about crowded store aisles and more of a steroid-pumped version of Cyber Monday. The upcoming American thanksgiving holiday is regarded as one of the most important retail and spending seasons of the year on both sides of the Atlantic, and Black Friday sales constitute a significant part of annual sales for many retailers.
The high street was dying a slow death even before COVID-19, and shopping centres have been relative ghost towns. That is usually remedied at least on Black Friday, but this year things might be different.
Last year, a few months ahead of the pandemic, Black Friday broke every record for online shopping, beating out high street efforts hands down. Online Black Friday shopping hit a record of £7.4 billion, based on data from Adobe Analytics, compared to £1.2 billion in online sales for Black Friday in 2018. Cyber Monday hit £9.4 billion in sales, an 18.9% increase over the prior year. As retailers encourage customers to shift to online shopping in order to avoid crowds during the pandemic, online sales are set to break another record this holiday shopping season.
This year is unlike any in the past, and for the first time we are no longer referring to peak holiday sales as Cyber Week, it is now Cyber Month.
The ‘indirect’ savior of the high street stores might be pharmaceuticals like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The companies said earlier this week that their vaccines was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those in the trial without evidence of prior infection. With a vaccine on the way, shoppers might get more relaxed with in-person shopping and upcoming holiday celebrations. But with online Christmas shopping already getting a headstart, a vaccine is not likely to make its way to the masses in time for a full return to in-person retail.