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Cyber Monday eclipses Black Friday again as inflation-pinched shoppers hunt for holiday deals

Some consumers said the discounts weren’t deep enough to spend big on, and many have adjusted to the reality that landing bargains no longer requires shopping in person the day after Thanksgiving.

With deals beginning even earlier ahead of Black Friday than in years past and continuing well after Cyber Monday, consumers are no longer cramming all their gift shopping into one day. 

Adobe Analytics said Tuesday that consumers spent $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, about 5.8% higher than last year’s haul. That sum is nearly 25% higher than the record $9.1 billion in online sales on Friday.

“It has surpassed Black Friday as the biggest shopping day of the season,” said Patrick Brown, vice president of marketing and insights at Adobe, whose data shows Cyber Monday sales have outstripped Black Friday since at least 2014. Overall, Black Friday sales topped $8.9 billion last year, versus $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday 2021. That trend, Brown said, “shows no signs of slowing down.”

And while inflation is driving up sticker prices pretty much across the board, Adobe said the 2.3% increase in overall spending this Black Friday versus last year wasn’t just because of higher prices. The $9.12 billion in total sales retailers notched on Friday was partly due to growing demand, Adobe said.

Still, Black Friday’s importance may be waning as Americans increasingly think twice about participating in doorbusters and in-person frenzies, with many preferring to order gifts from their couches instead.

Black Friday shoppers in South Coast Plaza on Nov. 25, 2022 in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Shoppers in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Black Friday.Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Plenty of consumers did flock to brick-and-mortar stores Friday, after the pandemic put a damper on in-person shopping over the last few holiday seasons, but many have gone resolutely digital. Mastercard said that Black Friday in-store sales were up 12% compared to last year, but online sales grew even faster — up 14%.

And while shopping malls saw much higher foot traffic Friday than on a typical day this year, according to Placer.ai, visits were down slightly year-over-year — about 2.3% lower at indoor malls and down 3.9% at outlet malls. Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Amazon said sales on Black Friday broke a record, underscoring the appeal of shopping online.

Sarah Hymer, a mother of two in Utah, said she hadn’t planned on any in-store Black Friday shopping. 

“It’s not worth all the chaos. You’re chasing after a toddler, you have a baby that’s crying,” she said.

Bargains have abounded both in-store and online. Among the most heavily discounted categories: toys and computers, where peak sales on Cyber Monday offered shoppers 34% and 20% off, respectively, Adobe Analytics said Tuesday.

Those discounts were particularly critical for Americans pinched by rising costs. With prices 7.7% higher than last year, inflation is sending many consumers looking for ways to keep their budgets intact this holiday season.

About 74% plan on spending at least as much as last year — about $1,455 per consumer — according to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte. But shoppers expect that same budget to cover only about nine gifts this year, down from 16 last year, Deloitte found.

“I think I’m buying about the same, just less people” on this season’s gift list, said Elena Rega, a shopper at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, on Friday.” We’re just sticking to our immediate families and not extended families … to save a bit more this year.”

Many consumers are likely making similar compromises. Simeon Siegel, a BMO Capital Markets analyst who follows retail companies, said the available discounts may not be enough to convince shoppers to spend big. “We fear promos didn’t help those that needed them, and were only minimally used for those that didn’t,” Siegel wrote in an analyst note Monday morning.

Some shoppers on Friday seemed to bear out that conclusion. Rega, holding multiple bags, said Black Friday prices struck her as “comparable” to a year ago. “I think they’re fine,” she said of the deals on offer.