For Holiday 2021, a Mix of Price Hikes, Cyber Gains and Consumer Pains

·5 min read

Adobe expects U.S. holiday sales online to hit $207 billion, representing a new record, a 10 percent increase from 2020 and strong growth after a year where the pandemic accelerated e-commerce.

Globally, online spending is expected to increase 11 percent, reaching $910 billion for the holiday season, defined as the Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 period. Adobe expects more than $4.1 trillion to be spent globally in all of 2021.

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The findings are from Adobe Analytics data covering more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million stock keeping units, 18 product categories and transactions in more than 100 countries in the Americas, APAC and EMEA regions.

Adobe sees major shopping days losing prominence, however.

Cyber Week (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) is expected to drive $36 billion in online spending, representing 17 percent of the entire holiday season, but just 5 percent ahead and less than the season overall, which is seen running 10 percent ahead online. Cyber Monday should drive $11.3 billion in online sales, up 4 percent and still the biggest online day of the year; Black Friday online is seen generating $9.5 billion, up 5 percent, and Thanksgiving online should generate $5.4 billion in sales, up 6 percent.

Consumers are already shopping for holiday gifts, but as the season progresses, they’ll be met with disappointment — too many out of stocks, rising prices and lower discounts.

Of the 18 categories tracked by the Adobe Digital Economy Index, apparel has the highest out-of-stock levels currently, followed by sporting goods, baby products and electronics. And compared to January 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak, the prevalence of out-of-stock messages to consumers has risen a “whopping” 172 percent going into the holiday season, according to Adobe.

Similarly, the annual Deloitte holiday survey, released Wednesday, found that three of four consumers are concerned about stockouts, motivating them to begin holiday shopping earlier this year.

With consumers, they’re more worried about inflation than retailers, 68 percent anticipate higher prices and spending an average of $1,463 per household, up 5 percent from last year. Higher-income shoppers are driving the gains, spending $2,624 per household. Lower-income households will spend an average of $536. Deloitte’s is based on a survey of 4,315 consumers conducted online Sept. 7 to 14, as well as a survey of 30 retail executives.

Deloitte indicated that “amid waning pandemic anxiety and increased consumer confidence, 2021 holiday spending intentions are approaching 2019 levels, with spending on experiences, including socializing, travel and entertainment, expected to increase 15 percent. That takes away from spending on material goods. The share of in-store spending is expected to rise to 33 percent, up from 28 percent in 2020 though below the 36 percent in 2019.

“Retailers will see strong growth this holiday season, even as supply chain issues, inflation and highly bifurcated spending continue to impact our industry,” said Rod Sides, Deloitte’s vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader.

“Consumers have adapted to life during the pandemic, and even though they are venturing out again, digital engagement shows no sign of slowing,” Sides added. “Retailers who remain resilient by offering promotions early, appealing to in-store and online shoppers and planning their inventories well in advance are likely to experience not just a robust holiday season, but will be well positioned for continued sales into the new year.”

Unfortunately for consumers, Adobe expects smaller discounts in major gifting categories including apparel, electronics, appliances, toys, sporting goods, furniture and tools.

“Goods are about 3 percent more expensive than a year ago, but the shocker will be with anything with a chip in it — appliances, computers, cameras, game systems, lighting systems, bike parts, cars, after market speakers. There is a shortage of chips. They are expensive and hard to get,” Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, told WWD.

Online, Adobe expects U.S. consumers will pay 9 percent more on average for goods during Cyber Week this year, compared to 2020. This is the result of smaller discounts, on top of e-commerce inflation through the year, according to Adobe. Retailers will be “managing the mix really hard to figure out how to make money. With big-box discounters, you will be looking really hard to offset loss leaders with things to make money on,” Schreiner said.

“We are entering a second holiday season where the pandemic will dictate the terms,” added Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing and insights at Adobe. “Limited product availability, higher prices and concerns about shipping delays will drive another surge toward e-commerce, as it provides more flexibility in how and when consumers choose to shop.”

In other insights from Adobe,

  • Consumers are embracing new payment methods, like buy now, pay later, to free up cash this holiday season. Online revenue from BNPL this year has been 10 percent higher than 2020 and 45 percent higher than 2019.

  • Curbside pickups are picking up and should peak Dec. 22 and 23 at a record 40 percent of all online orders, from 25 percent through November.

  • Smartphones will account for 42 percent of overall revenue this season ($86 billion), a modest 5 percent increase from 2020.

  • Fifty-one percent of consumers plan to purchase physical goods as gifts this holiday season; 17 percent plan to gift an experience. Top categories include spa treatments, concert tickets, sporting events, plane tickets and cooking classes.

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