If you were hoping to check some gifts off your list on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and were disappointed by the deals — or lack thereof — you’re not alone. By most accounts, the discounts have been significantly smaller during this year's holiday shopping season.
According to Adobe Analytics, computers were discounted at an average of 15% on Black Friday this year — roughly half of the 28% discount levels on Black Friday 2020. Sporting goods were another category with weaker discounts; the average markdown was 9% on Black Friday 2021, compared to 18% the previous year.
Deals on TVs, long a Black Friday staple, didn’t measure up either. Last year, there were some incredibly cheap deals, like a TCL 55" 4K Roku smart TV for just $148 at Walmart. There was no deal comparable to that one this time around, and TV prices are up across the board. Stephen Baker, technology industry advisor for NPD Group, previously told Money that for TVs, "holiday pricing overall is likely to be at least $100 above normal” thanks to a global chip shortage and changing consumer habits during the pandemic.
The picture wasn’t much better for bargain-hunting shoppers on Cyber Monday. According to Adobe, the discount level for electronics on Cyber Monday was an average of just 12%, compared with 27% in 2020. TVs were discounted an average of 13% compared to 18% in 2020. Sporting goods and appliances were both discounted at 8% levels on Cyber Monday in 2021, compared with 20% discounts in 2020.
During what it calls "Cyber Week" (November 23 through November 29), Salesforce found that the average discount was down 8% over last year. The average selling price rose 11% compared to 2020.
Why holiday deals are so bad this year
Why the mediocre year for holiday deals? For one thing, retailers are still grappling with a snarled global supply chain, with container ships unable to unload their cargo at American ports and freight delays caused by a national shortage of truck drivers. That means shipping and storage costs are much higher than they used to be for companies.
And with inflation at a 30-year high, averaging more than 6%, everything else is more expensive, too. Adobe says sellers are under pressure to maintain their bottom lines, and that means they can’t go all out on giant discounts this year.
In spite of the disappointing deals landscape, Americans are shopping nearly as much as ever. The National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 179.9 million people shopped over the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday – slightly less than the 186.4 million shoppers in 2020, but on par with previous years.
The small decrease in holiday shopping over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday period might also be a reflection of the extended shopping season. Lots of major retailers including Amazon, Target, Walmart and Wayfair began rolling out their holiday days back in October to encourage shoppers to buy early and avoid any supply chain issues.
“Over the last few years consumers have shifted their holiday shopping plans to start earlier in the season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement on Tuesday. Those early discounts, however, were still relatively weak, according to Adobe, especially for electronics, sporting goods, and appliances.
While in many cases it might be better to wait to shop after the holidays to capture markdowns from retailers on goods that got caught up in supply chain delays, it's a good idea to make purchases as soon as possible for any must-have items to ensure they arrive in time for the holiday season.
The good news is that a large portion of the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from Amazon, Walmart and others are still available today — at the exact same prices we saw during the big promotional sales days. They may not be in the same league as the deals from 2020, but they very well could be the best we see this season.