Online Holiday Spending in the US Grew at the Slowest Rate in Years

Online shopping for holiday gifts last year in the US grew at the slowest rate since at least 2014, according to Adobe Analytics, after a blowout year in 2020.

Consumers spent a record $204.5 billion on e-commerce from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, an 8.6 percent increase from the prior-year period, Adobe said. Growth slowed from prior years amid decreased popularity of major shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, fewer discounts on key gift categories, and the emergence of the Omicron variant that sickened workers and upended some holiday gatherings.

Supply chain snarls and cargo delays also hurt some retailers’ inventories. Adobe tracked 6 billion out-of-stock messages online during the shopping season, a 10 percent increase from the prior year and up threefold from 2019.

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“When we see these shortages happen which start to ripple online, availability becomes less across the board and choices become less,” Vivek Pandya, senior digital insights manager at Adobe, said in an interview. “If you have less choice, then the price will tick up.”

Online holiday spending grew at least 13 percent in each of the six shopping seasons prior to the last one, including a 32 percent year-over-year jump in 2020, according to Adobe. Total e-commerce spending was just $70.1 billion in 2014, the earliest data provided by the company.

“The growth that we were able to build on to last season really helped kind of showcase that there’s definitely entrenched behaviours in terms of online spend,” Pandya said.

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Last year’s deals were less compelling than in prior years. For example, electronics were discounted 8 percent compared to 21 percent in 2020. Computer prices were down 10 percent compared to 22 percent the year before. One exception was for apparel and toys, where discounts were better than they were in 2020.

Adobe on Wednesday also released inflation data that showed online prices increased 3.1 percent in December, the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. That’s still much lower than the overall level of consumer price inflation in the US.

“As consumers contend with higher offline prices for everything from gas to rent, they are finding that e-commerce is still a less expensive option when it comes to goods like toys, electronics and even jewellery,” Patrick Brown, Adobe’s vice president of growth marketing and insights, said in a statement.

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By Jordyn Holman

Learn more:

The Final Verdict on Holiday Sales

This week, everyone will be talking about US retail sales and inflation data, plus how the Omicron variant is upending awards season and fashion month.

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