2021 Cyber Monday, Black Friday sales dip from last year

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Shoppers spent less during Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year than they did last year — but that doesn’t mean they’re skipping holiday gifts.

Instead, Christmas appears to have come early for retailers as buyers raced to get their online shopping done ahead of the traditional holiday rush — heeding warnings about supplies running out if they waited too long to check items off their gift lists.

The rush of early spending meant gift-seekers had less to buy come Thanksgiving, leading to the first-ever drop in online sales for the shopping weekend when compared to the previous year.

The final tallies show online shoppers shelled out 1.4 percent less this year — or $10.7 billion — on Cyber Monday, while spending during Cyber Week — spanning from Thanksgiving through Nov. 29 — was also down 1.4 percent, to $33.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks one trillion visits to retailers’ websites.

Put another way, consumers spent $100 million less on Cyber Monday than they did a year ago.

Adobe has been tracking spending during the holiday season since 2012 and says this marks the first time online spending actually dipped during the frenzied Black Friday period, with Black Friday spending coming in 1.3 percent lower, or $8.9 billion compared to 2020.  

Shopping cart with bag that says Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday wasn’t as popular this year as last year after market watchers said shoppers scooped up deals earlier in October and November.
Getty Images/EyeEm

“With early deals in October, consumers were not waiting around for discounts on big shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “This was further fueled by growing awareness of supply chain challenges and product availability.”

And when adding in bricks-and-mortar stores, sales figures also came in lower than last year’s: The National Retail Federation said 179.8 million unique shoppers made in-store and online purchases during the holiday weekend, compares with 186.4 million shoppers in 2020.

Even though online shopping around Thanksgiving slipped when compared to past years, holiday sales still are on track to break online shopping records for the season as a whole, Schreiner said, pointing to strong figures for October and early November.

Overall spending in November still exceeds 2020 totals, up 11.9 percent, to $109.8 billion, according to Adobe, which expects 2021 spending to outshine last year by 10 percent.

The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, expects both bricks-and-mortar and online holiday spending to grow by between 8.5% and 10.5%, to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion this year.

Woman uses credit card to make Cyber Monday purchase
Even though the Thanksgiving weekend wasn’t as big as last year when it comes to retailers’ sales, the industry says it expects a record spend for the holiday season as a whole.
Getty Images

Some of the early alarm bells about lean supplies and inventory concerns “appear to have been more hype than reality as most retailers and items were well-stocked,” NPD retail analyst Marshal Cohen said in a statement. “The new pace of the holiday shopping season has evolved from the pre-pandemic wait-wait-rush to a slow-and-steady pace.”

Consumers may also have been less excited about the traditional shopping blitz days because they were not expecting — nor did they find — deeply discounted goods.

Inflation has hit retailers, who have passed some of the price increases onto consumers — and have backed away from discounting to protect their own profit margins amid rising production and shipping costs. Meanwhile, supply-chain and shipping worries have led some retailers to be careful not to tip the scales of demand beyond what can reach store shelves.

Prices ticked up by 19 percent during the holiday season, Adobe reports.

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