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Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2021: Stats & Stories from the International Shopping Frenzy

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Black Friday traditionally meant big sales and even bigger crowds competing for in-store bargains. Successive lockdowns and store closures due to the covid pandemic dramatically changed the narrative last year with online shopping sales exploding, which has really blurred the distinctions between Black Friday (in-store) & Cyber Monday (online) sales.

Online shopping sees a dramatic surge due to pandemic

It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a huge impact on online shopping. In March 2020, physical retail closed down overnight as governments introduced lockdowns worldwide and online became the only way for retailers and small businesses to reach customers. This led to a surge in online shopping of unprecedented proportions – Shopify’s revenue was up 94% in the final quarter of 2020 alone and global retail sales grew over 25%. In the US, McKinsey reported that ecommerce sales jumped 10 years ahead in just three months, up to a 33% market share from 16% in 2019.

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season for retailers and can account for up to 30% of annual sales. So the dramatic boost in online sales over the last year, especially for smaller and niche brands that have to compete with bigger retailers and the large discounts and giveaways that they offer, have helped all retailers make up for lost sales due to the dramatic drop of in-store sales. 

Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales rise in the UK

Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales in the UK hit a new high with reported consumer spending up over 20% on the previous year, as the high street bounced back from the pandemic lockdown in 2020 that affected in-store sales, and reportedly spent around £9.2bn over the weekend.

UK’s largest banks have also reported that the number of payments are up around 25% compared to last year during the lockdown as high-street retailers benefited from more people shopping in-store as well as online. Despite fears of a slowdown after last year’s surge in sales, reports from major logistics and delivery companies confirm higher numbers of deliveries compared to the same period in 2020.

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Sales dip in the US on Black Friday/Cyber Monday but up overall

In contrast, the US saw a slight dip in spending this Black Friday/Cyber Monday compared to 2020 and marked the first time that spending has dropped below the previous year. Black Friday sales dropped 1.3% to $8.9bn this year compared to the $9bn spent in 2020, and Cyber Monday sales dropped 1.4% to $10.7bn. An Adobe Analytics report suggests that the drop has mainly been caused by promotional sales starting early in October and thus spreading the spending over a longer period, as stores tried to entice consumers. The Adobe report also suggests that supply issues meant that many goods simply weren’t available to purchase as out-of-stock messages have increased by 124% since January 2020. Appliances and electronics have been affected the most, with the ongoing chip shortage only adding to the supply issues. 

A Shopify report confirms this as its data shows that the promotional deals started earlier in 2021 as brands and shoppers got ahead of shipping and supply chain delays, with daily total sales increasing 28 days before Cyber Monday, versus 19 days in 2020. So while sales and spending were down on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Adobe reports the entire holiday season will see record-breaking activity, as consumers spread out their purchases over more days to take advantage of the early promotions in October and November.

Global sales see record spending over the promotional period

Global sales and spending were in line with the UK uplift as Shopify announced a record $6.3bn in sales over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. This is a 23% increase on the same period last year, which saw $5.9bn in sales, and more than double that its merchants reported in 2019.

A Cyber Week report from Salesforce backs up these findings and shows that overall global sales hit an all-time high of $275bn over the week, up 2% compared to 2020, and $62bn in the US, up 4% compared to 2020.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday top stats

Shopify reported that in the UK:

  • The peak sales hour on Black Friday was 10am-11am (GMT)
  • London, Glasgow, and Manchester were the top 3 selling cities
  • £63.19 was the average cart price up from £55.17 in 2020
  • Apparel & Accessories were the top product category

Shopify reported that globally:

  • The peak sales per minute hit $3.1m (USD) at 12.02pm (EST) on Black Friday
  • London (UK), New York (USA), and Los Angeles (USA) were the top 3 selling cities
  • $99.50 (USD) was the average cart price
  • Apparel & Accessories were also the top product category
  • 71% of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales were made on mobile devices compared to 29% on desktop

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