The past week has seen a flurry of sales and deals to be had – that’s right – it’s Cyber Week (also referred to as Black Week in many regions) again!  Kicking off with Black Friday and running through the following (Cyber) Monday, many retailers use this time to urge shoppers to buy now in order to get the best deals of the season.

But this year is different – on many different levels.  Supply chain backup has meant that some products had already sold out well before the holidays, with no timely replenishment in sight.  And with low inventories, it left many retailers with a unique opportunity to be more selective about their discounting strategies.  

And if we thought the impacts of COVID were mostly in our rearview, last week’s news of the new Omicron variant sent shivers across global markets, quickly disrupting travel and the general sense of recovery we had begun to settle into.

So where does that leave the retail industry? As of Tuesday, Adobe Analytics saw Black Friday sales decrease 1.1% YOY to $8.9 billion, and Cyber Monday total sales fall 1.4% YOY, ringing in at $10.7 billion. These decreases were notable, as it indicates that the dynamics around these key promotional dates have shifted this season.

So what was happening behind the scenes?  Which types of deals were being served up to customers?  Read on for coverage of Cyber Week activity in both the US and key European markets.

US Luxury Market

Remember last year where we saw even the discount-reluctant luxury market markdown more products than usual? In positive news, we saw markdowns amongst the cohort of luxury department stores and retailers decrease from last year. The amount of luxury goods on discount is down from 43% in 2020 to 40% this year, and average discounts came down to 16% this year, from 20% last year.

In fact, the trend of fewer luxury discounts has been in motion throughout the year, not just during Cyber Week. These Cyber Week deals actually represent a significant uptick from the levels they were at during the rest of November, illustrating the brevity of the Cyber Week deals.

Most likely to be marked down: shorts, jumpsuits & rompers, skirts, jeans

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Least likely to be marked down: luggage, handbags, slippers, suits, heels

Most likely to sell out: jumpsuits & rompers, dresses, luggage, backpacks

US Specialty Retail Market

The US specialty retail sector comprises retailers whose primary business is selling apparel, footwear, and accessories.  And, over time, the sector has traditionally maintained some of the highest discount levels recorded amongst US retail sectors.

But what if the heaviest of discounters could dial down their discounts, and along the way, potentially train their shoppers to expect fewer and lower discounts?  Well, due to the nature of the supply chain and consumer demand this holiday season, that very trend is playing out. We saw both discount penetration and average discounts decrease from last year’s levels.  While levels are still high (discount penetration was 55% and average discount was 20%), this downward momentum is positive news for these retailers’ bottom lines.

Most likely to be marked down: dresses, jumpsuits & rompers, skirts, casual jackets & blazers

Least likely to be marked down: luggage, boots, slippers, slip-on shoes & loafers

Most likely to sell out: luggage, handbags, skirts, dresses, casual jackets & blazers

US Beauty Market

Sephora

While we typically see lower discounts going on the beauty industry, with promotional tactics more targeted towards loyalty, this Cyber Week saw a definite uptick in the discounting of beauty products.  The number of beauty products on markdown during Cyber Week increased from 12% in 2020 to 24% in 2021.  But it’s important to point out that beauty specialty retailers like Ulta and Sephora maintained discount penetration of under 15%, while department stores and multi-brand retailers, whose specialties aren’t just beauty, were the players driving these averages up.  In addition, we saw average discounts increase YOY, from 4% to 5%.  

Most likely to be marked down: bath & body treatments, tooth care, tools & cases, sun care

Least likely to be marked down: bath & shower gel, beauty gifts/sets, body makeup, body moisturizers

Most likely to sell out: beauty sets, bath & shower gel, soaps, bubble bath & bath oils

Shifting our focus across the ocean, let’s now take a look at discounting and sales activities during Cyber Week in key European markets.

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Germany

Recovery in the German specialty retail market can be seen with the discounting data coming in during the 2021 Cyber Week period.  In fact, both key discount metrics have come down markedly from their 2020 levels.  Specifically, discount penetration is down to 51% from 60%, and average discounts decreased from 21% and 16%.  

A theme that we saw across many European markets is that the categories most likely to go on sale during Cyber Week were for aging spring and summer merchandise, such as swimwear and shorts, and StyleSage data often shows overlap between the top-selling categories and the most discounted ones.

Most likely to be marked down: jumpsuits & rompers, dresses, shorts, skirts, swimwear

Least likely to be marked down: lace-up shoes & oxfords, slippers, slip-on shoes, gym bags, heels

Most likely to sell out: suits, dresses, outerwear, tracksuits & sets, jumpsuits & rompers

UK

Stringent lockdowns in the UK that extended through spring of 2021 had a profound impact on its non-essential retailers.  While the re-opening of the economy is well underway, the lingering effects of COVID are evident in discount trends.

From last Cyber Week to this one, specialty retailers in the UK saw significant increases in both how much was on sale and how high those discounts were.  Last year, discount penetration during Cyber Week was 50%; this year it was 65%.  Similarly, the average discount was 17% last year; this year it was 23%.

In the UK, what was most likely to sell out were items like handbags and heels, items for which there remains pent-up demand.

Most likely to be marked down: swimwear, shorts, jumpsuits & rompers, skirts, dresses

Least likely to be marked down: luggage, slippers, gym bags, lace-up shoes & oxfords, boots

Most likely to sell out: heels, suits, business bags, backpacks, handbags

France

Benetton

In France, we typically see slightly lower discount trends throughout the year compared to its European neighbors.  Following this theme, this Cyber Week saw slight decreases in both how much was on sale and how high those discounts were in the French market.  

Interestingly, even though it wasn’t one of the top discounted categories, outerwear was amongst the top sellers during Cyber Week in the French market.

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Most likely to be marked down: jumpsuits & rompers, swimwear, shorts, dresses, heels

Least likely to be marked down: business bags, luggage, messenger bags, slippers, backpacks

Most likely to sell out: tracksuits & sets, gym & sports bags, suits, outerwear, jumpsuits & rompers

Italy Market

Like many European markets, major discounting in the Italian market is historically limited to specific seasonal periods, in January and July, and Cyber (Black) Week is the one rare period in which discounts will briefly reach end-of-season levels. Indeed, during this Cyber Week, discounts in the Italian retail market went up from last year’s levels.  

Again, the categories most likely to be on discount were those out-of-season, like swimwear, sandals, and shorts, while top sold-out categories during Cyber Week were in the bag category.

Most likely to be marked down: jumpsuits & rompers, swimwear, shorts, dr

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Least likely to be marked down: business bags, luggage, messenger bags, backpacks, slippers

Most likely to sell out: tracksuits & sets, gym bags, suits, messenger bags, business bags

Sweden Market

The Swedish specialty retail market rang in the start of this holiday shopping season with higher discounts than last year.  The percentage of products discounted went from 61% in 2020 to 76% this year, a significant increase.  As well, the average discount went up, from 22% to 27%.

Similarly to what we observed in other European markets, many of the categories most likely to be on discount were not in-season, and discounts focused on spring and summer categories.

Most likely to be marked down: swimwear, flats, sandals, shorts, dresses

Least likely to be marked down: gym bags, luggage, backpacks, handbags, sneakers

Most likely to sell out: business bags, gym bags, tracksuits & sets, suits, luggage

That’s all for our Cyber Week recap!  Check back here for more updates as the season progresses.