Retail spending ticked up slightly in holiday shopping last week as a continued trend toward the “smoothing out” of demand throughout the entire winter peak has diminished the importance of traditional surge dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to an analysis from enterprise software vendor Salesforce.
U.S. shoppers spent $13.4 billion on “Black Friday” November 26, an increase of 5% over 2020, and are projected to spend $11 billion today on “Cyber Monday,” which would be flat growth compared to last year, the company said.
The data comes from Salesforce’s compilation of global shopping data from more than one billion consumers on its Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud platforms, which are used by 24 of the top 30 U.S. online retailers. The results showed a similar pattern for global trends, which showed a 2% rise on Black Friday to $63.4 billion and a predicted flat trend to $43 billion on Cyber Monday.
“After a strong start to the holiday season, momentum continued with moderate growth throughout Cyber Week,” Rob Garf, Salesforce’s VP and GM of Retail, said in a release. “With the smoothing out of demand throughout the entire season, peak days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have less of an impact than previous years. It’s been less about Cyber Week and more about Cyber November. It’s always a retailer’s dream to pull demand early in the fall, and with supply chain bottlenecks and fears of inflation, consumers did shop early and often.”
To capture that spending, retailers in 2021 had to cope with supply chain challenges such as port delays and trucking capacity shortages, which have combined to create low holiday inventory levels. Salesforce found that “product catalogs” over Cyber Week shrank 6% compared to last year, both in the U.S. and globally.
Another sales hurdle this year is a rising concern about inflation levels, which could boost costs and prices. To combat those fears, retailers in 2021 are offering more creating financing terms, such as Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) deals, Salesforce said. Shoppers embraced those offers, driving a 37% increase in BNPL usage over Cyber Week by dollar amount. That rise covered 8% of all orders, with over $16 billion in holiday orders now being financed.
Those trends were also reflected in data on shopper visits to brick and mortar stores reported by commercial real estate giant CBRE Group Inc., which found that foot traffic on Black Friday was up significantly compared to pandemic-impacted 2020, and met or exceeded 2019 traffic numbers at most locations.
The data was generated by a survey of personnel at 16 of the malls and large-format retail centers managed across the U.S. by CBRE Retail Property Management.
“Although consumer sentiment has taken a dip, retail sales remain strong. Supply chain issues may hamper smaller retailers, but inventory likely won’t be a problem for larger retailers with purchasing power,” Brandon Isner, Head of Americas Retail Research for CBRE, said in a release.
And while inventory may be lean, retailers did not cite inventory shortages as an issue, CBRE said. In fact, shoppers trying to avoid shipping delays actually preferred to shop in-store, as shown by a drop in Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup rates and an increase over 2020 in attendance at events such as such as Santa meetings, light shows, and movie theaters.
“We anticipated that in-store foot traffic would be much higher this holiday season, with shoppers eager to return to their normal traditions and the experiences they missed last year,” Isner said. “The feedback from our retail centers shows that people are more comfortable gathering this year and their activity will be a boost to not only retailers, but entertainment outlets such as theaters and restaurants. This narrative is backed up by data illustrating that retail foot traffic has steadily increased throughout October.”