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Is Walmart the Real Black Friday Winner?

By Rich Duprey – Dec 3, 2021 at 2:55AM

Key Points

  • Black Friday sales are on the decline for retail shopping compared to previous years.
  • remains the most potent retail force online.
  • Walmart achieved demographic superiority in one key group that could tilt the playing field in its favor.

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The brick-and-mortar retail king may pose a challenge to Amazon in the coming years. (AMZN 0.01%) may have won Black Friday, but the day's cultural significance is over, broken by the pandemic, supply chain, and runaway inflation woes which made retailers push for early access to holiday deals this year.

For the first time ever, Black Friday sales were lower than those from a year ago, as were sales made on Cyber Monday. And while Amazon captured over 18% of online Black Friday purchases, Walmart (WMT 0.81%) may be the retailer to watch going forward. 

Person counting money at register.

Image source: Getty Images.

Black clouds over Black Friday

Black Friday is still the biggest shopping day of the year, and Amazon CEO Dave Clark said it was a record-breaking day for the e-commerce giant. 

While retail analytics firm Sensormatic Solutions, part of Johnson Controls, found in-store foot traffic was down 90% on Thanksgiving as more retailers opted to remain closed on the holiday, the more surprising detail may have been the 28% decline on Black Friday compared to 2019. 

In fact, the entire five-day weekend was below pre-pandemic levels, and though store traffic on Cyber Monday is naturally of little significance, according to Adobe, only $10.7 billion worth of merchandise was sold this year, or 1.4% less than last year's $10.8 billion.

Person excited with open box.

Image source: Getty Images.

Amazon a monster hit

It's clear Amazon still owns the online show. Now matter which analytics firm diced the data, the e-commerce retailer came out on top.

Numerator found online sales continue to account for a larger percentage of holiday purchases, some 38.1% of the total for Black Friday. That's an 11.5 percentage point increase from last year and almost 20 percentage points more than 2019.

Of that total, though, Amazon captured the lion's share of sales, or 17.7%, which is over 5% more than last year. This keeps it firmly ahead of Walmart at 10.9%, which actually suffered a 0.5% decline. (Target, Best Buy, and Costco rounded out the top five retailers with about a 5% or less share of sales.)

Amazon also dominated when it came to consumer demographics. Regardless of ethnicity or even income level, the e-commerce giant ruled the day by beating all its rivals for market share. Even among age groups, everyone flocked to Amazon -- all except one, actually, and that may hold the key to Walmart's influence in coming years.

Online shopping cart on smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

Changing of the guard

According to Numerator data, while millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all preferred shopping at Amazon to Walmart (or anyone else), Generation Z, or the up-and-coming consumers of tomorrow, turned to Walmart in greater numbers for their shopping needs.

At the moment, Gen Z accounts for the greatest percentage of in-store shopping (71.7%) and the smallest percentage of online purchases (28.3%), but Walmart captured 12.7% of their sales between brick-and-mortar and the website, compared to 11.1% who shopped at Amazon.

That's important because Morgan Stanley estimates Gen Z will overtake millennials as the largest consumer demographic by 2034, which is likely why Walmart and others have been making a play for their attention. 

Young person looking at laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Reaching out to tomorrow's consumer

Earlier this summer, for example, Walmart reintroduced the former brick-and-mortar tween clothing brand Justice at its stores. Once a part of Ascena Retail Group, which declared bankruptcy last year, leading to all of Justice's stores being closed down, Walmart revived the brand by bringing it back inside its stores. 

It also introduced the Gen Z-focused Bubble brand of skincare products to its shelves, with a lineup all priced under $20. That's important because price is still a consideration for these consumers just starting to flex their spending muscles. It will help establish buying patterns now that will reflect on their habits in the future.

Black Friday may become a relic due to how much the world has changed over the past two years. It was already losing influence, and global forces may have finally killed it off.

While Amazon isn't going away as a retail force, this year's start to the holiday selling season indicates Walmart may be a bigger threat than realized, especially in the years to come.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Best Buy, and Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Inc. and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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