Billions of Dollars Are at Stake in a Puzzling Holiday Shopping Season

It doesn’t matter much to retailers, who used the early holiday sales to try to offload products before most shoppers had even picked out their Halloween costumes. But it signaled that shoppers are motivated by deals, no matter what they’re for. After two years of limited discounts, shoppers are showing they are willing to hold out for a bargain.

Brands are getting on board. “We made too many,” the bike maker Specialized said on its website, telling customers that they can “save BIG.”

Rakuten, an online platform that offers deals and shopper rewards, said retailer participation in Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions was the “biggest in the last three years.”

Natalie Rodriguez, 47, who works for the Indiana Department of Revenue, said the products on sale weren’t what she wanted to give for Christmas.

“I am really cognizant of those deals that are coming up right now. I think it is a grab to see who gets my money first. Am I taking advantage of it because I perceive it was a deal?

“On the Amazon sale, I had 150 things in my cart and saved for later, but I didn’t see anything that is comparable to what I would think is a Black Friday deal. When I was a kid, Black Friday was superlow-cost, like 80 or 90 percent off. Most of what I saw was 30 and 40 percent on some items. It’s like, ‘Nah, I will just pass,’ especially if it is not an essential item. Crest Whitestrips were a great deal, but I don’t need them right now.

“All I got was a $50 gift card with a $10 bonus on it.”

For years, largely spurred on by Amazon, consumers got used to fast shipping — often in two days or less. The pandemic upended that. Driver and inventory shortages meant people had to plan ahead.

This year, industry experts do not expect another Shipageddon. There are more than enough delivery and warehouse workers to meet demand. Shippers should be able to deliver 110 million packages a day, almost 20 million more than shoppers are expected to order, according to ShipMatrix, a consultancy.

“Because of experiences of what has gone on with global supply chains in the last few years, folks are stretching the holiday season over a longer period,” said Jamil Ghani, the vice president of Amazon Prime.

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