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Cyber Monday Sales in Flux Following Black Friday Bummer

After a Black Friday that saw in-store foot traffic decline 28 percent versus 2019 levels and online shopping dip slightly from $9 billion to $8.9 billion, the jury is still out on whether Cyber Monday will live up to its 2020 counterpart, according to a report from Adobe.

While last year saw a Cyber Monday record of $10.8 billion in online purchasing, Adobe said this year’s sales total could fall anywhere between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion. Similarly, Salesforce projects Cyber Monday spend in the U.S. to remain flat in 2021. Either way, the day will still be the largest shopping day in the U.S. this year, both companies project.

But it appears Thanksgiving weekend on the whole has been disappointing from a pure e-commerce sales perspective, with Thanksgiving Day sales coming in flat at $5.1 billion—the low end of Adobe’s prediction. Adobe initially called for Thanksgiving to generate $5.4 billion, a 6 percent year-over-year jump, while it projected Black Friday sales to come in at $9.5 billion, or 5 percent up.

This marks the first time that there has been a downturn in spending during the holiday weekend since Adobe first began reporting on e-commerce in 2012.

On a positive note, the slump comes after an already strong month, in which consumers have spent 13.6 percent more than they did last year in the period from Nov. 1 to Nov. 28, at $99.1 billion. While only eight days topped $3 billion in spending for the month, that total has escalated to 21 in 2021.

“Online sales on big shopping days like Thanksgiving and Black Friday are decreasing for the first time in history, and it is beginning to smooth out the shape of the overall season,” says Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights in a statement. “With 21 days in November driving over $3 billion in spend, what we know as Cyber Week is starting to look more like Cyber Month.”

Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce, shared similar sentiments, referring to the period of changing shopper habits as “Cyber November.”

“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,” Garf said in a statement. “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.”

The overall November growth is a good example of not just the effectiveness of early deals in October, but also heavy consumer awareness of the current supply chain issues affecting delivery times.

The supply chain forced retailers to shrink their inventory over the past week, with product catalogs from Tuesday to Sunday being cut down 6 percent in the U.S. and globally, Salesforce said.

Marketing personalization platform Bluecore said that the inventory shrink came at a cost on Black Friday, particularly if shoppers couldn’t find a product online. Brands lost nearly 69 percent of shoppers who encountered out-of-stock products, the firm said.

In good news for apparel brands, Bluecore said they were the most well equipped to convert these shoppers to different products, with 38 percent of shoppers purchasing another item from the same brand.

Over the Nov. 27-28 weekend, Adobe said the prevalence of out-of-stock messages was up 16 percent compared the weekend before (Nov. 20-21).

Overall, Adobe anticipated U.S. holiday sales online to hit $207 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, setting a new record and representing a 10 percent increase from 2020. The firm still expects the two-month sales total to exceed this number despite the slower Thanksgiving weekend.

Adobe Analytics data covers more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories—which the tech giant claims covers more ground than any other technology company or research organization.

Of course, comparing 2021 to 2020 sales directly isn’t necessarily fair given that the 2020 on the whole saw unprecedented e-commerce sales acceleration due to the pandemic. Over the November-December holiday stretch sales numbers jumped 33 percent from 2020, according to Adobe.

Also, as expected, costs were higher during the past week and were passed on to consumers. Salesforce said that the average selling price over the period of Tuesday to Sunday was up 13 percent in the U.S. and 6 percent globally compared to last year.

To generate its holiday results, Salesforce analyzed global shopping data from more than 1 billion consumers on its Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud platforms, used by 24 of the top 30 U.S. online retailers.

Providing more context into the nature of the recent holiday spending environment, the Bluecore study indicated that brands saw an average of 8 percent fewer purchases on Black Friday, but 9 percent higher average order values (AOV).

Home goods saw the biggest boost in average order value at 24 percent, while apparel and jewelry both saw average purchase price increase 13 percent. Footwear saw an 8 percent jump, while consumer electronics was the one major category that saw a decline at 4 percent.

And with the heightened costs, discounts fell. Salesforce said the average discount over the Tuesday-to-Sunday period, which it calls “Cyber Week,” was 26 percent in the U.S. (down 9 percent year over year), and 23 percent globally (down 8 percent year over year).

Cyber Monday is still the best day to buy TVs with discount levels at 16 percent, slightly up from 19 percent markdowns last year. Apparel discounts for the day average out at 15 percent compared to 20 percent last year, and furniture and bedding markdowns have been cut to 4 percent from 9 percent in 2020, according to the CRM giant.

For the week, Salesforce says luxury handbags saw the biggest year-over-year spending increase at 47 percent. Calfskin bags, satchels and crossbody bags were the most popular-selling items in the category. Furniture came in at 40 percent growth, powered by chairs, mattresses, and sofas. Finally, general footwear saw a 27 percent boost, with clogs and boots serving as the top sellers.

Bluecore, which calculated Black Friday purchases of apparel and footwear items, said that wedges saw a whopping 12,259 percent increase over 2020 totals, while mules sales jumped 701 percent and flats soared 302 percent. Other products that saw serious increases in Black Friday demand were watches (222 percent), traditional/ceremonial clothing (126 percent), pocket squares (124 percent), pants (111 percent), heels (97 percent), hats (72 percent) and sleepwear/loungewear (50 percent).

To calculate its data, the personalization platform analyzed 4.5 billion shopper events on brands’ e-commerce sites, including shoppers viewing products, abandoning products, adding products to cart, conducting keyword searches and completing sales transactions.

As for Adobe, the tech giant says its next Cyber Monday update will be released at 9:30 p.m. ET, with a look into how the day is trending.

Interestingly enough, while Adobe and Salesforce were largely in lockstep with their data, they shared conflicting reports on the usage of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) platforms.

Globally, BNPL usage over “Cyber Week” grew 37 percent year over year to encompass 8 percent of all orders, with over $16 billion in holiday orders financed, according to Salesforce. This represented 7 percent of all Black Friday orders globally, and 4 percent in the U.S.

Yet Adobe, which showcased data from Saturday and Sunday, said that BNPL revenue is down 10 percent year over year, with orders down 23 percent on an annual basis.

U.K. sees 17 percent drop in store traffic from 2019 levels

Across the pond, the foot traffic drops seen stateside were also prevalent in U.K. stores on a two-year basis. While year-over-year footfall did increase 102.1 percent over 2021 totals across all U.K. shopping centers, according to data from in-store analytics firm Springboard, the nation was under its second coronavirus lockdown last year from Nov. 5 to Dec. 2, preventing non-essential stores from staying open.

Foot traffic in the U.K. now stands at 17 percent lower than the 2019 level, a widening of the gap from the week before when it stood at a 12.4 percent year-over-year drop.

U.K.’s retail parks—the equivalent of larger non-mall shopping centers in the U.S.—saw the best results at a mere 5 percent decrease on a two-year basis. High street stores experienced a 19.3 percent dip, while shopping centers such as malls saw the worst plunge at 23.6 percent.

According to Springboard, in-store traffic crept up 2 percent from the week before, driven largely by shopping centers (6.5 percent growth) and retail parks (4.9 percent), whereas the high street retailers still saw 1.5 percent traffic declines.

On Black Friday, footfall strengthened from the week before by 17.9 percent in shopping centers and by 11.4 percent in retail parks. Like the rest of the week, overall footfall at high street stores declined 0.5 percent, marking the first drop since Springboard started analyzing the weekend.

In the eight previous years recorded by Springboard, high street footfall on Black Friday rose from the week before by an average of 17.3 percent. In 2019, it rose by 25 percent, and even during lockdown last year, traffic was 11.7 percent higher on Black Friday than the week before.

The drop can be attributed to three factors, according to Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

“Firstly, the large proportion of office employees continuing to work from home meant that rather than visiting high street stores during the working day on Black Friday, it was easier to head out to shopping centers and retail parks,” Wehrle said in a statement. “Secondly, a reduction in overseas tourists in the U.K. has resulted in far fewer leisure shoppers who on Black Friday would typically head to Central London, large city centers around the U.K. and towns attractive to tourists such as historic and coastal towns. The third factor was the adverse weather on Saturday, which acted as a severe deterrent to shoppers in making trips to towns and cities.”

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