How Heavy Discounts Eroded Holiday Weekend Sales

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Half of American shoppers believe that the best deals of the year are available on Black Friday. How then to account for the fact that those shoppers turned out in larger numbers than last year but spent less?

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), over the four-day weekend 154 million people bought something, up 3 million from the 2015 estimate. Online traffic rose 4.2%, while in-store traffic fell by 3.7%, according to the NRF, and total spending fell by 3.5% compared with last year.

Data released on Tuesday from retail analytics firm EDITED pointed to steep discounting as the culprit. The number of discounted items rose by 20% year over year, and the average price reduction was 44%, compared with 36% a year ago.

The average discount on sold-out items reached a whopping 60%, and the biggest discounts were available on Saturday and Sunday, not Black Friday. The researchers found that 18% of the mass market was discounted 50% or more on Saturday and nearly 51% was discounted on Sunday. The same items were discounted 25% on Black Friday and 40% on Cyber Monday.

Senior EDITED analyst Katie Smith said:

The concept of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ being the best days for discounts is officially gone – today, they refer to a near week-long incremental discounting event. Following a lackluster retail season thanks in part to uncertainty around the U.S. election, retailers took an aggressive discounting approach to make up for sluggish sales.

However, the danger of Black Friday and Cyber Monday seeping into a longer timeframe is that ongoing discounting will discredit the full price on retailers’ wares, leading to discount fatigue and an even greater reluctance by consumers to pay anything but the biggest price drop

Here are a few more data points from the research:

  • Customers received a better deal in 2016, with the average price of items selling at $50 this year compared to $57 last year.
  • There was a massive 236% increase in product sellouts between Thanksgiving day [and] Cyber Monday this year, compared to the week prior.
  • Full-priced product sellouts increased by 56% from Thanksgiving day to Cyber Monday, compared to the five days prior.
  • On Cyber Monday, almost one-third (30%) of the entire luxury market discounted its products between 26-50%.
  • Despite Cyber Monday being the ‘online’ day, mentions of Black Friday outnumbered Cyber Monday by 308% in retailer email newsletters and website promotions, with many number of retailers still referring to Black Friday over the weekend and into Cyber Monday, despite the day having passed.
  • The top selling out item this year was footwear, while jewelry, tops and dresses were the least popular categories.

If shoppers can only be attracted by the lowest price, then retailers may find themselves in a no-win race to the bottom. One research firm has already lowered its spending growth estimate from 2.0% to 1.7% for the holiday season. For shoppers, that indicates that the steep price cuts are not finished yet.

EDITED analyzed over 20,000 U.S. accessory, apparel and footwear brands for its latest findings. The company’s proprietary software utilizes big data analytics, machine learning and image and text recognition to access and collect information on what’s selling in real-time. EDITED analyzes over 520 million products worldwide, adding more than half a million products each week to create billions of data points for its customers to give them a competitive edge.