Amazon Prime Day Winners Include SMB Sellers, Fashion

·5 min read

Amazon would like the public to know that this year’s edition of Prime Day, held Monday and Tuesday, was very, very good to the marketplace’s third-party sellers, who moved more than 70 million products during Prime Day and nabbed nearly $2 billion in sales in the lead-up to the event.

But parse the announcement, and another surprise Prime Day winner surfaces: the fashion category.

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Adobe Analytics’ pre-Prime Day data noted that fashion doesn’t usually loom large at the shopping event, setting expectations that history would repeat itself. Instead, the apparel category notched an unexpected slot on this year’s bestsellers list, alongside beauty and baby care. They join popular Prime Day categories such as Amazon devices and other electronics, household items and nutrition products, which tend to be mainstays on the list.

Fashion’s Prime Day performance appears to come down to heavy rounds of promotions for clothing and accessories, according to data from BMO Capital Markets. For instance, Calvin Klein offered one of the highest promotional discounts across the branded fashion terrain. But it was far from alone.

“Adidas was up to 45 percent off on the high end with UA only up to 30 percent off,” it wrote. “Adidas offered roughly twice as many sku options as UA through our checks. New Balance was being offered up to 30 percent off and COLM [Columbia Sportswear Company] was offered up to 40 percent off. Accessories from Timberland were offered up to 20 percent off, the same promotional level as Dickies.”

Obviously sportswear looms large, but more specifically, the firm broke out results by Prime Day sales. It singled out Under Armour as the winner.

“UA captured the largest share of Amazon’s stated top clothing, shoes and jewelry products, with roughly 15 percent of the highlighted bestselling skus,” BMO added. “Carter’s and Levi’s both had 11 percent of the top sellers, with Amazon Essentials next, at roughly 7 percent. Interestingly, Adidas only had about 4 percent, despite offering twice as many skus as UA. CK [Calvin Klein] had about 3 percent of the top sellers.”

Amazon’s announcement may have hinted at another reason for fashion’s growing Prime Day business: “Tens of millions of customers viewed Prime Day product demonstrations and try-on hauls, heard directly from creators and more during Amazon Live livestreams throughout Prime Day,” the company explained.

Livestreamings are especially effective for products that are visual in nature and benefit from demos, such as beauty and fashion. Amazon has been developing livestream shopping on the platform since 2019, but the shopping modality in general has ignited over the course of the pandemic and continues to pick up steam. It’s expected to send U.S. e-commerce to $6 billion this year and as much as $25 billion over the next two years.

Aside from the hard numbers and tech development, there are soft, or human, factors as well. A report from the American Psychological Association revealed that 42 percent of surveyed adults said they gained more weight than they intended over the course of the pandemic, with an average of 29 pounds gained.

In other words, there are a lot of people emerging from lockdowns with wardrobes that no longer fit. That suggests Prime Day and related apparel promotions may have arrived at a perfect time. According to RetailMeNot, clothing, shoes and apparel topped its list of planned Prime Day purchases, at 44 percent.

While fashion may be a bigger slice of Prime Day, the overall picture it fits into looks somewhat fuzzy.

Amazon revealed that Prime subscribers bought more than 250 million products worldwide. More than 70 million of those products were from small- and medium-sized businesses, giving them their best two days ever, Amazon noted, with growth that even outpaced the company’s own retail efforts. It also added that consumers shopped and saved more than any previous Prime Day.

A “Spend $10, Get $10” promotion for small businesses over the two weeks preceding the event drove $1.9 billion for these sellers, amounting to growth of more than 100 percent compared to the Prime Day 2020 promotion in October.

Comparing two promotional periods may be effective, but it doesn’t match the specificity in Amazon’s previous Prime Day reporting. For the 2020 event in October, the company didn’t mince words in announcing that third-party sales broke $3.5 billion over the two days alone.

And although it doesn’t typically reveal Prime Day sales figures for its own retail business, it often uses words like “record-breaking” and “biggest day ever.” No such language in the current recap.

The absence stands out, particularly since the signs looked promising early on. Adobe data fueled anticipation that Monday would drive the most online sales over a single day in 2021 so far, with the e-tail giant expected to top $5.6 billion, for 8.7 percent year-over-year growth.

Part of the complication in calculating and tracking Prime Day growth is the scheduling shift, with Prime Day postponed from the typical summer timeframe to October last year.

The proximity to the holidays benefited the event, Refinitiv explained.

“This year’s Prime Day sales will affect Q2 2021 revenue, which is estimated to be lower than last year’s Prime Day sales, which occurred in October, i.e. Q4 2020,” the financial markets data and infrastructure firm wrote in its Prime Day report. “Amazon’s overall sales were stronger in Q4 2020 due to holiday-related buying. Still, this year’s Q2 2021 revenue are on track to be significant stronger than 2019’s pre-pandemic prime levels.”

In other words, Prime Day 2020 results, estimated by Refinitiv at $125.5 billion in revenue, is an outlier. With the firm pegging the 2021 edition at $115 billion, it would look like a decline.

A more sound comparison is to go back another year and compare 2021 to 2019, when Amazon nabbed nearly $70 billion in estimated Prime Day revenue. The math shows that Amazon pulled off a jump of more than $45 billion over two years.

Of course, explaining that is more complicated than releasing soundbites like “largest shopping event in Amazon’s history,” which may have robbed the e-commerce company of a short, punchy way to explain just how gargantuan Prime Day has become.

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