Online sales fell on Black Friday but should bounce back on Cyber Monday, analysts say

Black Friday sales fell below projections this year.
Black Friday sales fell below projections this year.
Image: Faire/Handout via Reuters
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Online sales dipped slightly for the first time since at least 2012 this Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day, as consumers shopped earlier in the month amid ongoing supply chain issues, according to data from Adobe Analytics. Discounts on so-called cyber Monday (Nov. 29) are also expected to be weaker this year compared to 2020, but the firm projects online sales could outpace the previous year.

Separately, data from Sensormatic Solutions shows more Americans returned to in-store shopping this Black Friday, but the number of shoppers that passed through physical stores remained more than 28% below pre-pandemic levels.

This year’s sales trends don’t necessarily suggest that shoppers are abandoning the hunt for holiday deals all-together, but rather that Black Friday is becoming less significant for retailers as consumers space out their shopping across more days in November.

Online sales were slightly lower this Black Friday from previous year

Adobe reports US retail sites brought in $8.9 billion in revenue this Black Friday, a slight decline from last year’s $9 billion in online spending. Sales on Thanksgiving Day remained flat, with shoppers spending $5.1 billion, roughly the same amount they did last year.

“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,” Taylor Schreiner, the director of Adobe Digital Insights, wrote in an email. “What we know as Cyber Week is starting to look more like Cyber Month.” He noted online sales exceeded $3 billion on 21 separate days this November, whereas retail sites hit that threshold just eight times by Nov. 28 last year.

The strong online sales this November show US consumers may have heeded advice to get their holiday shopping done early amid ongoing supply chain constraints. Some retailers, including Amazon, Target, and Ulta Beauty, announced Black Friday deals by the beginning of October to counter these concerns. Shoppers spent $99.1 billion between Nov. 1 and Nov. 28, according to the Adobe data, up 13.6% from 2020.

Adobe projects cyber Monday shopping should bounce back this year, with online sales projected to fall between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion. Last year Americans spent $10.8 billion on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a 15% increase from the previous year. The discounts are not expected to be quite as steep, though: Computers, for example, were on average 28% cheaper last year, while they’re 14% cheaper this year.

Shoppers continue to stay home

Online sales broke records last year on Black Friday as shoppers remained confined to their homes due the covid-19 pandemic. While more Americans got back to shopping in-person this year, consumers’ preference for e-commerce seems to have held strong.

The analytics firm Sensormatic Solutions reports retail centers and shopping centers saw 48% more customers this Black Friday compared to 2020, when many businesses still had covid-19 restrictions in place. But US businesses still saw a 28% decline in traffic compared to 2019. The post-pandemic drop was even steeper this Thanksgiving, when visits to physical stores decreased by 90% compared to 2019. Many major retailers like Target stayed closed on the holiday this year, continuing a trend that accelerated in 2020.