In a year of uncertainty and rampant supply chain disruptions, Americans’ shopping habits have adapted. It’s clear disruptions were top of mind with online shopping this year and in-store Black Friday sales dwindling, but holiday sales have thrived online since November 1.

For last mile delivery providers, this means there’s been less concentration of orders on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but an increase in total e-commerce orders overall. Good news for retailers and delivery service providers, despite the challenges we’ve faced in 2021.

Holiday shopping habits expand beyond Black Friday & Cyber Monday

This year was the first year ever that online Black Friday sales decreased from the previous year, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sales may have dropped 1.3% on Black Friday and 1.4% on Cyber Monday compared to last year, but that dip was offset from a sizable 11.9% increase in sales for the month overall. Online shoppers spent a whopping $109.8B online in November, which could be attributed to retailers staggering sales and offering fewer slashing discounts on crowd drawing items.

However, while not a bad month for the overall market, it was still a rocky start to the holiday shopping season for retailers who depend on in-store shopping saw only minor gains from last year's turn out, with overall turn out continuing to dip 28.3% below pre-pandemic turnout numbers.

Supply chain delays shifting consumer behavior

While 2021 has been a vast improvement over the uncertainty of 2020, supply chain delays are still going strong, with backed-up ports, transportation disruptions, and subsequent material shortages.

It appears that continuous media coverage and daily impacts created a shift in consumer behavior. Shoppers worried about shipping delays putting a damper on their holiday gift giving were a large contributing factor in both the uptick in in-store shopping, and the early bird spending ahead of Black Friday sales.

The early shopper gets the goods

If you were holding out for pricier purchases to go on sale, you may have had to make other plans. Many holiday shoppers found hot items were out of stock before the Black Friday sales even began. 

According to a report from Adobe, on Cyber Monday, out-of-stock messages increased 8% compared to the week before. In November, out-of-stock messages were up a whopping 169% from January 2020, and 258%  from November 2019.

Dwindling stock has become a painful side effect of supply chain delays felt by all.

An unprecedented season for last-mile delivery

FedEx estimates it will deliver 100 million more packages between Black Friday and Christmas than it did in 2019. It’s predicting a 10% increase from last year. With shopping spread out more than years prior, there’s less pressure on freight carriers to ship tens of millions of packages in one day.

While the heat is certainly on, major shippers like UPS don’t appear to be sweating the extra demand with UPS President of Worldwide Sales, Bill Seward, assuring WSJ interviewers, “I don’t want to sound overconfident but we feel good about it.”

Another holiday shopping season for the history books

2021 is undoubtedly different from other years, but you already knew that. Between supply chain disruptions, inflation, and general uncertainty in the world, people have been shopping online more at their own convenience rather than sticking to set holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Despite another rollercoaster year of ups and downs, it’s looking like we’re on an up swing for the holidays. There’s less pressure on the essential-as-ever DSPs, but still more routes and jobs to deliver the millions of packages Americans are ordering. Retail sales are thriving, and hopefully everybody gets what they want for Christmas this year.