Long considered to be the busiest shopping day in the U.S., Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) didn’t quite live up to its reputation this year. Though better than in 2020, when many of us were stuck at home due to lockdowns, foot traffic in major stores was still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels. More concerning still for retailers: Cyber Monday sales also dipped for the first time ever.

While some observers have suggested the shift might be due to consumers shopping earlier in the season, web traffic data from Thinknum paints a somewhat different picture. We looked at web traffic data for five of the top e-commerce platforms in the U.S., including Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, Costco and eBay. All had considerably lower web traffic this year than at the same time last year — which suggests that not only are consumers buying less stuff, they’re also spending less time shopping. Could rising inflation be a factor? Possibly.

The chart below shows changes in daily pageviews per million for each of the top five retail sites, starting with the day after Thanksgiving in 2020 and ending with the day after Thanksgiving in 2021. As you can see, the peaks in the wavy lines gradually shrink as time goes on and they never regain their post-2020 holiday heights. 

Web traffic for Walmart was down 9.6% from last year’s Black Friday, while eBay’s was down 21.6%, Amazon’s was down 8.5%, Costco’s was down 7.8% and BestBuy’s was down a whopping 27.2%.

Taking a closer look at some popular categories for holiday shopping — beauty products, pet supplies, gaming consoles, luxury goods and athletic apparel — we found some areas that followed the larger trend, and some that broke with it.

In the beauty category, daily pageviews per million for Bath & Bodyworks were down 55.6% and Sephora’s were down 72.7% from last year’s Black Friday. Ulta, however, showed a slight bump of 3.9% in web traffic.

The pattern was also pronounced for gaming consoles (a very popular larger-ticket holiday gift). Daily pageviews per million dropped 35.3% for Nintendo, 27.2% for BestBuy, and 40% for Sony from Black Friday in 2020. Pageviews for GameStop were up 2.3%, but one might be able to attribute some of that activity to continued high levels of retail investor interest in the company.

Results for pet supply retailers were a little more mixed. Pet products can also see a bump around the holidays, when people buy little stocking stuffers for friends’ and family members’ dogs and cats. Black Friday web traffic for Petsmart was down 6.3% from last year, while Petco’s was down 32.6%. However, Chewy, the remarkable e-commerce success story founded by Ryan Cohen and Michael Day, doubled its web traffic this year from Black Friday in 2020. We expect this will probably be a good year for Chewy.

Web traffic for luxury goods companies was also mixed, with some businesses showing steep decreases and others showing healthy increases. Louis Vuitton’s and Givenchy’s daily pageviews per million on this year’s Black Friday were both down about 69% from the day after Thanksgiving in 2020. Gucci’s was down about 8%. Dior’s, by contrast, was up 34.8% and Balenciaga’s was up 91.7%.

Athletic apparel, meanwhile, appeared to largely buck the larger e-commerce shopping trend. Web traffic for Adidas was up 306.8% from Black Friday last year, while web traffic for Under Armor was up 163.2% and for Nike was up 4.4%. Lululemon wasn’t as hot, though, this year. Web traffic for the site dropped 39.2% from last year’s Black Friday. Perhaps after so many of us lived in them during the pandemic, we’re just not as keen on buying yoga pants.

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