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Online Sales during Thanksgiving on the Decline?

New estimates from Adobe Analytics show that, in 2022, online shopping for Thanksgiving in the US may decline from that last year. Several e-commerce platforms now host sales throughout the year, which has made traditional holiday sales redundant. Furthermore, data show that customer spending amounted to 509 billion dollars this year, which is six percent less than that in the previous year. This tells us, consumers are probably spending less this year, which could affect online sales during Thanksgiving as well. Let’s take a look at some of the key contributors to this decline.

What’s in the news?

This year, online sales during Thanksgiving are touted to decline for the first time since 2015. Here are some figures that point to this shift. 

  • Recent projections show that the total sales of almost eighty-five percent of the top 100 e-commerce platforms in the US will reach 5.1 billion dollars this year, which is only one percent less than that in the last year. 
  • In a statement, Mr Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, said, “Given that overall online retail inflation is essentially flat from last year, there would be little to no change if online retail inflation was factored in.”
    Why should brands selling online be concerned about it?

Several retailers have been planning to open their shops way before Thanksgiving to attract shoppers and increase traffic. Online advertisements posted by brick-and-mortar establishments to increase their sales are difficult to miss. Teasers for Black Friday discounts are everywhere, and shoppers can’t help but give in to the attractive offline deals. The sudden inclination toward in-store shopping could affect online sales, and brands that primarily sell online may have to prepare for underwhelming responses this year during the holiday season.

in-store shopping

Holidays are losing their significance, thanks to businesses

Nowadays, e-commerce giants seldom offer steep discounts during traditional holiday seasons; instead, they host year-round sales on their platforms. The key reasons for this change are: 

  • E-commerce websites typically record good sales year-round, thanks to positive consumer responses to the lucrative deals offered on their platforms. 
  • The high global inflation rate has made shoppers conscious about their purchases. To deal with this, retail businesses have been offering huge discounts to in-store shoppers to clear their inventory. This could lessen the importance of traditional shopping seasons.

What do shoppers traditionally expect from a Thanksgiving sale?

shopping online

Pandya says that, earlier, consumers expected deals to be offered from Thanksgiving and continue till Cyber Monday. In a study, Adobe showed that shoppers expect discounts of up to or more than thirty-two percent in stores during Cyber Week. The discounts could be as high as twenty-seven percent on electronics, twenty-two percent on toys, and nineteen percent on televisions and apparel. These are the minimum discounts online stores should offer during a Thanksgiving sale to draw traffic.

Thanksgiving and in-store shopping: the current scenario

According to a report by Kelly Tyko from Axios, retail stores are most likely to remain somewhat obsolete during Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, which could explain why brands like Best Buy and Target are now adopting a different strategy. 

  • Best Buy has formally announced that its stores will remain closed on the holiday, but it will host Black Friday sales. 
  • Target has also announced that its stores will remain closed on Thanksgiving, and more retailers are expected to join this trend. 
in store

This trend will cause a potential shift from online to in-store shopping and thus reduce traffic for online businesses.

Sale days ahead of the holidays: a new trend in in-store shopping

Amazon’s Prime day, which takes place twice a year, has been a key contributor in diverting customers toward online sales, away from in-store shopping. Data from Adobe show that the first Prime Day this year generated a whopping 11.9 billion dollars in retail in just two days. There could be a pre-shopping boost on the second Prime Day, too, which could be bad news for brands and potentially affect their in-store sales during Thanksgiving. This explains why brands like Target and Best Buy are choosing to host their sale day way ahead of the traditional Thanksgiving sale and attract decent traffic to their stores.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Thanksgiving this year could look dismal for online platforms. The change is mostly driven by global inflation and the declining purchasing power of consumers. Furthermore, to compete with e-commerce giants that offer deals throughout the year, offline stores are now hosting sales way before Thanksgiving, which could make most Thanksgiving sales redundant. In this scenario, steep discounts are the only hope for brands planning to go live with their Thanksgiving sales online.

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