The Pandemic Pushed Sales Online — Here’s What That Did for Amazon’s Sellers

As the coronavirus pandemic pushed shoppers online, digital channels on Black Friday and Cyber Monday were expected to notch record sales numbers — benefiting e-commerce giants like Amazon, which reported that this year marked the “largest holiday shopping season” in the company’s history.

According to the Seattle-based retailer, independent sellers on its platform racked up $4.8 billion in global sales over the weekend — a gain of more than 60% from the prior year. What’s more, it noted that 71,000 small- and medium-sized businesses exceeded $100,000 in sales in the holiday season to date. (The company did not provide specific financial figures on consumer spending on its website during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.)

“In a holiday season unlike any other, it’s clear that customers still want great deals on gifts for their loved ones or a little something extra for themselves, and we’re glad to help deliver smiles throughout the season,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business.

Amazon helped usher in an earlier-than-usual start to the holiday shopping season by hosting its annual Prime Day event in mid-October. (The event is typically held in July but experienced weeks of postponements due to COVID-19.) Rivals Walmart and Target, as well as department stores, sporting goods chains and specialty retailers, followed suit, launching their own earlier-than-ever and extended days of deals.

In line with broader trends of months past, the online behemoth shared that beauty and home as well as comfort-centric apparel and accessories were the top shopping categories in the United States. For fashion, customers purchased fleece amid cooler months, plus “bright and bold” activewear and “head-to-toe patterns” like tie-dye and animal prints.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are typically the busiest days in the holiday shopping period for retailers. According to Adobe Analytics, U.S.-based consumers spent about $9 billion shopping on websites the day after Thanksgiving — a 22% hike from the previous peak of $7.4 billion last year. The data research firm also predicted that Cyber Monday would be the biggest online sales day in the country, with spending growing 15% through 35% year over year to between $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion.

The acceleration of online shopping could create new challenges for many traditional brick-and-mortar operators as consumers remain anxious over visiting physical stores amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, some firms that have managed to shift resources to digital are contending with bogged down supply chains and delivery charges.

Health authorities have also discouraged visits to malls and outposts during the holidays: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously issued guidance on its website that included “shopping in crowded stores” as one of the “higher risk activities” this season.

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