It's Not Just You—Holiday Deals Were Worse This Year

What happened to major seasonal discounts?

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When I was a kid, my mother would pull me out of bed when it was still dark on the day after Thanksgiving. She gave me militant instructions: This is what we need, this is where it is, these are the psychological tactics you will employ against other shoppers to guarantee we walk out of Target with a DVD player marked down 75%. This year, however, there weren’t many deals worth getting up early for.

If you've been roaming store shelves or shopping online, you may have noticed a disturbing lack of big sales. You're not alone, according to the Washington Post. Like so many other facets of American life, major markdowns have fallen victim to supply chain issues. As the overall cost of goods has risen 6.8% since January 2021, per the Post, it is not entirely surprising that the discounts are getting weaker. The days of 50%, 60%, and 70% off sales are probably over for the near future. Due to inflation, labor shortages, and transportation struggles, major retailers are scaling back customer discounts to drive down costs and keep profits up.

"This season's discounts, which range from 5% to 25%, are markedly lower than the historical average of 10% to 30%, according to Impact Analytics and Cowen & Co," writes the Post.

The challenges brought forth by the pandemic gave a new opportunity to sellers. They are able to keep prices higher, even during the biggest shopping seasons of the year, because demand hasn't dropped. "Brands haven't had a window like this in a long time, so they're cutting back on any sort of promotion, discount, or reward," Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, told the Post.

And the lack of impressive sales (among other factors) might be why there was a drop in online sales during Black Friday this year. In 2020, Americans spent $9.2 billion on Black Friday, while in 2021, Americans spent about $8.8 billion, according to Adweek. It's the first year there hasn't been an increase in spending during the shopping holiday. With the fear of shortages and a lack of big discounts to draw customers in, more shoppers started shopping outside of the usual Black Friday/Cyber Monday window. 

Maybe the lack of sales will make some of us smarter, more diligent shoppers. Or maybe we will just be spending more money to check off our holiday gift list.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.