Walmart saw a big dip in customers shopping at its stores on Black Friday this year, study finds. Instead, they may have been flocking to the retailer's website.




 
  • Walmart saw an estimated 5.3% decline year-over-year for in-store traffic, according to Placer.ai.

  • Nonetheless, Walmart got more search traffic than its rivals from people looking online for Black Friday deals.

  • The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer offered both early online and in-person Black Friday deals.

Shoppers just aren't flocking to stores like they used to for Black Friday. And the world's largest retailer experienced that firsthand this year.

Walmart saw a 5.3% dip in physical store traffic this Black Friday compared to last, according to estimates from Placer.ai, a location data company. And big-box stores across the board saw fewer people coming in: Placer.ai estimates that Target and Lowe's saw Black Friday foot traffic decline 2% and 18.6%, respectively, compared with last year.

But that doesn't mean fewer people are shopping at Walmart and its rivals. Global online searches for the term "Black Friday deals" were up 246.6% this year, according to a study from data platform Semrush - suggesting that more customers may be interested in seeking deals online.

And among retailers, Walmart led the pack in online searches leading up to Black Friday, according to a CNBC review of data in November from technology company Captify, which tracks more than 1 billion searches a day from websites globally. Walmart saw searches for Black Friday discounts spike by 386% year-over-year, per the company.

Black Friday serves as an example of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant's push in leveraging its omnichannel operations as it continues to balance its traditional brick-and-mortar shopping approach with a pandemic-induced spike in ecommerce sales.

Walmart declined to comment on its performance in stores and online during Black Friday.

The retailer ran a full-court press on its digital Black Friday sales, offering three online-only days of deals earlier in November ahead of the day after Thanksgiving.

The company has been attempting to recapture the magic it had from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when the world hunkered down and primarily turned to online shopping. In the second quarter of 2020, Walmart US ecommerce sales increased 97% compared with the year prior. Meanwhile, this year, that growth has slowed - the second quarter of 2022 saw 12% year-over-year growth for Walmart US e-commerce sales.

To be sure, Black Friday still provides a boost in store traffic for Walmart. Compared with the daily average number of Walmart shoppers for the first three quarters of the year, Black Friday brought a 77.1% increase in shoppers at Walmart stores across the nation, according to Placer.ai data.

"Even compared to a Black Friday in 2021 that was limited by rising COVID cases, and an active effort by retailers to shift focus away from the retail holiday, brick-and-mortar visits were down nearly across the board," Ethan Chernofsky, VP of Marketing at Placer.ai, said in a statement. "The data serves as the latest indication of the ongoing decline of Black Friday's centrality. Nonetheless, the day did still drive a massive surge in visits."

The day seemed to bear fruit for Walmart despite the estimated drop in physical-store visits, according to Mari Shor, a research analyst with Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

"It's getting harder and harder to kind of decipher how individual stores are doing over Black Friday," Shor told Insider. "But I would say overall the high-level reports I've seen have been positive for Walmart on Black Friday across (product) categories."

Got a tip about Walmart? Ben Tobin can be reached by email at btobin@insider.com or via the encrypted app Signal or text at (703) 498-9171.

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