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Three Themes From the Holiday Shopping Season So Far, Including an Extended Shopping Period and Strong Online Sales

From pandemic concerns to record-high inflation, it’s been a holiday shopping season like no other.

While Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2021 are now in the past, the shopping season is far from over, with Christmas just around the corner. Early on, supply chain slowdowns dominated holiday predictions, with experts forecasting a season marked by empty shelves and fewer discounts. But thus far, the shoppers have turned out in droves, driving high sales across the board.

Despite headwinds, Thanksgiving and Black Friday still boasted strong sales numbers this year, with experts saying Cyber Monday sales could also see similar strength. As retailers look ahead to Christmas, here are the top trends that have defined the holiday shopping season thus far.

No in-store shopping on Turkey Day

Following a pandemic-era decision last year, many major retailers decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving this year. Walmart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Foot Locker, Macy’s, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond and REI all shut down on Turkey Day this year. Target said that its decision to remain closed on Thanksgiving became permanent as of this year.

According to data from Sensormatic Solutions, physical visits to stores on Thanksgiving Day decreased by 90.4% compared 2019, as a result of store closures.

Despite the closures, online sales on Thanksgiving were essentially flat from 2020 at $5.1 billion, according to Adobe data. Plus, many consumers spread out their shopping over the course of a couple months this year, which meant that Thanksgiving Day closures weren’t detrimental to overall numbers.

People shopped earlier than usual

Strong online sales suggest that consumers got an early start to shopping this year to avoid potential out-of-stocks and capitalize on deals earlier in the season.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 28, shoppers spent $99.1 billion online, marking a 13.6% growth from 2020, Adobe data showed. The growth was spurred in part by supply chain concerns as well as early deals that rolled out through October and November.

“Consumers have been shopping strategically this season: Buying early and taking advantage of deals retailers have been promoting since late October,” Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insight. “As a result, we’ve seen a record 18 days with sales over $3 billion in November. Black Friday still remains a major online shopping day, but the surge in online shopping is coming from the less marketed days of the season.”

Strong sales, fewer promotions for Cyber Monday

Adobe predicts that Cyber Monday online sales will fall between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion, marking the biggest shopping day of 2021 so far. Adobe also predicted fewer discounts this Cyber Monday, due to supply chain constraints.

However, because people spread out their holiday shopping this year, major holiday shopping days, including Cyber Monday, are less critical than in years past.

“With the smoothing out of demand throughout the entire season, peak days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have less of an impact than previous years,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM of retail at Salesforce. “It’s been less about Cyber Week and more about Cyber November. It’s always a retailer’s dream to pull demand early in the fall, and with supply chain bottlenecks and fears of inflation, consumers did shop early and often.

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