Black Friday online shopping surged over 21 percent amid the pandemic

It still doesn't beat one record, but it's close.

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NEW YORK, Nov. 27, 2020 -- Pedestrians walk past Macy's Herald Square in New York, the United States, on Nov. 27, 2020. Black Friday, one of the most anticipated days by consumers, shifted its consumption patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year. More shoppers have opted for online sales, and in-store shoppers tend to buy things much faster than before. U.S. consumers' online spending made a new record high of 5.1 billion U.S. dollars on Thanksgiving Day with a year-on-year growth of 21.5 percent, according to the data issued by Adobe Analytics. (Photo by Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images)
Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images

Many were expecting a spike in online Black Friday sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s now clearer just how large that shift really was. Adobe now estimates that internet Black Friday sales in the US jumped 21.6 percent year-over-year to hit a whopping $9 billion. That’s unsurprisingly a new record for Black Friday, and analysts weren’t shy about attributing at least some of it to the need to stay at home. In states with pandemic-related restrictions on family gatherings, online shopping over Thanksgiving and Black Friday surged 265 percent.

This wasn’t quite an all-time record for holiday shopping. It was second only to Cyber Monday 2019. However, Adobe expects this year’s Cyber Monday to climb between 15 to 35 percent and comfortably set a new record.

Just what people were buying has only changed to some degree. Tech still led the way with AirPods, Apple Watches, Amazon Echo speakers and Samsung TVs dominating alongside games like Animal Crossing and Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Smartwatches were particularly popular, with sales growing 606 percent compared to October.

It won’t surprise you to hear that online shopping for regular products has grown as well. Grocery shopping jumped 397 percent year-to-year on Black Friday, and personal care product sales leapt 556 percent. Simply put, gifts have to compete much more fiercely with everyday goods now that visiting the local store poses a health risk.

Whether or not this momentum carries over to 2021 isn’t clear. Vaccines and other efforts could help the pandemic subside and bring people back to physical stores, but there’s no guarantee everyone will revert to old patterns even if it’s completely safe to go back. The pandemic has led many to shop online where they haven’t in the past, and they might not be in a rush to go back to physical retail.

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