IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Americans are spending less money online even as Amazon's 'Prime Day' discount sale begins

E-commerce as a percentage of total U.S. retail sales has flatlined after booming during the early years of the pandemic.
An Amazon employee packs items to be shipped out to customers inside Amazons Bridgewater "mini-fulfillment center" in Bridgewater, Mass., on March 16, 2022.
An Amazon employee packs items to be shipped out to customers inside Amazon's "mini-fulfillment center" in Bridgewater, Mass., on March 16.Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe via Getty Images file

Amazon Prime Day, the e-commerce giant's discount bonanza exclusive to users of its premium subscription service, kicked off Tuesday.

But amid red-hot inflation, Americans are likely to spend significantly less money this year than they did in 2021, according to a survey.

RetailMeNot Inc., a shopping and deals website, found people plan to spend an average of $388 during the 48-hour sales event. That's compared with an average spend of $595 last year. The site surveyed more than 1,000 users.

This is happening as America’s pandemic-era e-commerce sales bump proves to be a short-lived one. After surging 32% in the second quarter of 2020, online sales have largely resumed their regular pace of about 3% per quarter, U.S. census data show. And as a percentage of total U.S. sales, e-commerce growth has flatlined as the pandemic goes on.

“Prime Day has been growing in terms of dollars spent every year since its inception,” RetailMeNot said. “If that plateaus this year, that will show just how big of an impact inflation has had on American shoppers.”

The midyear spending spree won't occur solely at Amazon. RetailMeNot found shoppers will spread about 40% of their sales-day budget at competing retailers such as Best Buy, Macy’s and Target, which have launched alternative discount events alongside Prime Day.

Amazon shares were down as much as 2% in Tuesday trading.

If there is a silver lining for shoppers, it's that prices are falling in Prime Day's biggest spend categories, according to online inflation data tracked by the Adobe Digital Price Index. Apparel, the largest Prime Day spending category thanks to the event's proximity to back-to-school season, is seeing prices fall 3 percentage points compared to 2021, RetailMeNot found. Electronics, jewelry, home decor and appliances were also down.

Price increases were led by categories such as groceries, pet food, and tools and home improvement, Adobe said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release inflation data for June. It is expected to show ongoing price surges, reflecting higher food and gas prices, the White House said Monday.