As an individual day, Black Friday has been steadily losing prominence over the past decade.
Retailers start discounting earlier and earlier and the holiday shopping period is more of a rolling one starting in October and ending in December.
Big-box retailers like Walmart (WMT) - Get Free Report and Target (TGT) - Get Free Report as well as e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report have all been competing to get an early start on discounting. By mid-October all three had some form of holiday sales even if the marketing effect of discounts is often much stronger than the actual savings.
This is caused at least partly by inflation. With many consumers seeing their dollars stretch shorter distances, they are increasingly waiting for discounts -- or even the perception of a discount -- to buy both holiday presents and the day-to-day items they need.
"Consumers are starting earlier than ever to be sure they can get what they want, when they want it, at a price they want to pay," National Retail Federation Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in its annual consumer habits survey.
"Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween."
An Early Start on Holiday Spending
New numbers from Adobe Analytics (ADBE) - Get Free Report found that from Nov. 1 through 21, customers had already spent $64.59 billion online. That's only a 0.1% tick higher from a year earlier, but even the lack of a drop is, according to Adobe, significant amid rampant inflation.
"The minor uptick [...] shows that despite a challenging spending environment (persistent inflation, rising rates), consumers still have a strong appetite for holiday shopping," Adobe said in a statement.
On nine out of those 21 days, shoppers spent more than $2 billion online while online purchases of toys are up 172% from 2021. All this indicates that inflation is not putting off people from shopping this holiday season -- sales of kitchenware are up 155% from October 2021.
Outerwear and gift card purchases are also up a respective 277% and 106% from 2021.
Waiting for That Good Discount
Inflation is, however, shifting retail trends as many discounts were at record highs in November -- 22% for electronics and 14% for computers in particular, 13% for appliances, 12% for apparel and 8% for sporting goods.
More shoppers are also choosing not to pay outright for what they're buying. Purchases using Buy Now, Pay Later, or a loan program that enables buyers to split store purchases into several payments have risen 13% from a year earlier.
All things considered, the holiday-shopping season should be strong.
Adobe predicts that Cyber Week, the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, will bring in an additional $34.8 billion in online sales. That's 16.3% of the total sales expected in November and December.
Cyber Monday, which is expected to ring up $11.2 billion of sales, is still the biggest online shopping day of the year. Sales on Thanksgiving Day itself are expected to be down 1% from last year.
That's likely to change, particularly for Cyber Monday, as both in-store and online discounts spread over a longer period.
"We are beginning to see the impact of earlier holiday deals, as retailers contend with oversupply and a softening spending environment,” Vivek Pandya, Adobe Digital Insights' lead analyst, said in a statement.
"E-commerce has remained resilient thus far per Adobe Analytics, a strong start to the season as we look towards Cyber Monday, which is expected to set new records for online shopping."