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Despite 'Christmas creep,' Thanksgiving weekend still reigns

Online holiday sales will break the $100 billion mark this year, Adobe predicts, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday getting even bigger.

Illustration of smartphone as department store for internet shopping and mobile apps
Just remember to pace yourself for a long holiday shopping season.
Mitch Blunt/Getty Images

Just after Halloween, a bunch of retailers tried to get a jump on sales for the holiday shopping season, with Amazon, Walmart and eBay all pushing early discounts online this week.

But don't worry if you're not in the holiday spirit quite yet and are annoyed by "Christmas creep," the trend of holiday sales and marketing starting earlier in the year. Despite these post-Halloween sales, retail experts say the days surrounding Thanksgiving weekend still reign as the top selling days of the year and should offer the biggest deals for most consumers.

"There's so much competition from retailers, they're trying to get out earlier," said Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer for RetailMeNot, an online emporium for promo codes and discounts. She noted that Amazon's Prime Day now ensures that Black Friday-like sales are starting as early as July.

The early kickoff to holiday sales comes as traditional retailers have been struggling to keep up with e-commerce's growth and particularly with competition from Amazon. With a long list of retailers going into bankruptcy protection or closing stores this year, the stakes are especially high to win back customers during the holidays. That could mean some great deals for consumers, but you'll have to pace yourself during the elongated shopping season.

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US online holiday sales are expected to rise 13.8 percent this year to $107.4 billion, Adobe Analytics reported Thursday. Cyber Monday is expected to become the biggest online sales day in US history, generating $6.6 billion in sales. Black Friday should take in $5 billion in e-commerce sales, making it the second biggest online sales day of the season, Adobe said.

Additionally, browsing for products on mobile devices will continue to grow, making up 54 percent of retail traffic during the holidays, up from 50 percent last year, according to Adobe. But, like with previous years, most people will be making actual purchases -- not just shopping around -- on desktop, since the buying experience on mobile is still slow and cumbersome.

Adobe's list of most anticipated electronics for the holidays, based on social mentions.


Overall US holiday sales are expected to grow 3.6 percent to 4 percent, hitting $678.75 billion to $682 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

But while online sales are expected to see a healthy boost, Adobe found that for the past three years those dollars haven't migrated much to the early part of the season. That trend is expected to continue this year.

"We believe that's because everyone's gotten wise to the idea that they should wait till the lowest-priced days, which is Thanksgiving weekend," Tamara Gaffney, an Adobe analyst, said.

That same data shows that e-commerce sales have been increasing during the later part of the season, though, as retailers have improved their shipping infrastructure to fulfill last-minute orders from procrastinators.

A few shopping tips for the holidays

So, do these trends mean you should wait until Thanksgiving weekend to buy stuff? Well, that depends on what you're shopping for.

RetailMeNot's Tarleton said it's always best to buy high demand, low inventory items as soon as possible, lest they go out of stock later in the season. Also, all these early sales could net some solid bargains, she said, so if you see one that looks really great for a must-have item, you might as well get it in case the deal doesn't pop up again later in the season.

Using its reams of data, Adobe Analytics also pulled together the handy chart below showing the best days to buy online for specific categories, like sporting goods or TVs. Unsurprisingly, they're all bunched around Thanksgiving weekend.

Adobe Analytics estimates on the best days to shop for certain items.


Also, if you're not sure what to buy as a gift, Adobe generated a list of most anticipated toys and electronics for the holidays, based on mentions on social media. Leading the toys list were Nerf guns, Shopkins, Paw Patrol and the Fidget Cube. For electronics, the whole list was taken up by virtual-reality gear, Bluetooth earphones and smart speakers, with the leaders being Apple AirPods, PlayStation VR, Oculus and Google Home.

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