Nov 22, 2023 - Economy

Americans are already shopping their hearts out

illustration of a digital hand holding a shopping bag

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Americans are expected to cook up plenty of order confirmation emails this Thanksgiving.

  • Over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, shoppers will shell out $37.2 billion online — up 5.4% from last year, Adobe Analytics projects.

Why it matters: This isn't a factor of rising prices — the increase is driven by net-new demand this year, Adobe tells Axios.

  • E-commerce prices have actually been falling for 14 straight months and were down 6% in October from the same time last year.
  • With online deflation factored in, spending growth would be closer to 12% over last year, according to Adobe.

The intrigue: The stronger shopping period over the next few days comes at time when traditional holiday buying patterns are shifting earlier in the year.

  • Notably — Americans already spent $63.2 billion online in the first 20 days of the holiday shopping season (Nov. 1 to Nov. 20), which is up 5% over last year, and above Adobe's forecast.
  • Of those days, 17 have seen consumers spend over $3 billion online, a new record. (For context, there were 13 days of over $3 billion spend in the comparable period last year).

The big picture: U.S. consumers, on average, haven't pulled back on spending this year despite the "vibes" being off.

  • "Despite rising costs elsewhere (student loan repayments, interest rates), consumers are finding great bargains online and willing to spend," Adobe's report reads.
  • Or, as Axios' Neil Irwin put it recently: "If Americans have the capacity to spend money, they will."

Yes, but: Just because Americans can't stop themselves from shopping doesn't mean that some shouldn't.

  • Buy now, pay later options, which can lead to excessive debt, accounted for nearly 8% of the online spend so far in November, at $4.9 billion.
  • That's up "a significant" 14.5% year-over-year, Adobe says.

What to watch: Total online holiday spend between November and December is projected to reach $221.8 billion, a 4.8% growth over last year, according to Adobe.

  • When factoring in physical retail sales, U.S. consumers are expected to spend a total of between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion, a growth of between 3% and 4%, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • On average, consumers are expected to individually spend about $1,652 during the holidays this year, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

Methodology: Adobe analyzes direct consumer transactions online to U.S. retail sites.

Go deeper: Holiday spending could see boost from lower heating costs

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