It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday shopping season even though it’s not Halloween. You can thank evolving shopping habits, COVID-19, a delayed Amazon Prime Day, supply chain concerns, and crimped consumer and business budgets.

The moving parts are going to be enough to make Black Friday more of a 2020 retailing blip than the biggest shopping day of the year.

Simply put, the calendar is moving forward and households won’t have as much to spend. The winners will be Amazon, which is likely to deliver its biggest fourth quarter in history, and retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, and Target that have mastered buy online pickup in-store and other digital sales tactics.

In addition, Amazon’s rivals are all planning sales around Prime Day. Those moves will just create a flywheel of demand that’ll minimize the importance of retail’s big holiday shopping days.

Consider some data on holiday shopping 2020 from Accenture’s Holiday Shopping Survey:

  • 76% of more than 1,500 US consumers said they want retailers to close on Thanksgiving. 2020 will be very human this year.
  • Only 11% of consumers are willing to pick up purchases in-store.
  • 44% of consumers plan to spend the same on holiday shopping than they did last year and 41% said they will spend less. The percentage of consumers spending less has tripled in 2000 compared to 2019.
  • 30% of consumers will start holiday shopping earlier for fear of not getting what they want if they wait until after Thanksgiving.
  • 64% said they are less inclined to shop on Black Friday with 59% less inclined on Cyber Monday.

From Salesforce’s forecast based on Commerce Cloud data:

  • 10% of cyberweek sales will be pulled into October.
  • Total digital sales will hit a record high of $940 billion globally with $221 billion in the US.
  • 700 million packages will face potential shipping delays as orders will exceed shipping capacity by 5%.
  • Overall holiday sales will be flat despite growth in digital commerce, which will represent 18% of all retail.

How this holiday e-commerce season plays out is yet to be determined, but there are some underlying trends to consider.

For starters, sales of electronics, PCs and monitors may lag due to pushed up demand. Sales of these items surged as workers went remote and had to equip home offices for the long-haul. Virtual back-to-school plans also boosted demand. 

That demand in work- and learn-from-home gear was shifted forward and may not appear in the holiday season. However, Amazon has launched new Echo devices to stoke demand. 

Also: Every new Alexa device from Amazon: Prices, release dates, and how to buy

In addition, retail categories that have been rocked–think apparel and beauty–may see more demand due to the holidays and return-to-office efforts.

Logistics will win the day. Some analysts have noted that Prime Day 2020’s primary purpose is to clear inventory ahead of the holiday season. Amazon’s competitive edge right now is its fulfillment network, but capacity remains tight. Jefferies estimated that Amazon is expanding fulfillment capacity at a pace of 2.25 million square feet per week. Amazon is also handling its own packages and cutting out UPS and FedEx.


Supply chains are still disrupted. Cowen analyst John Blackledge recapped the firm’s conference call about Amazon demand in the fourth quarter. Blackledge said in a research note:

Our expert noted that many sellers are scrambling to make inventory available for the both Prime Day and the rest of 4Q as he continues to see disruption in supply chains and in Amazon FC capacity. Specifically he noted those using weekly LTL (less than truckload) runs are having difficulty getting pickups. In addition, he noted issues in production, capacity, workers, and especially shipping containers from Asia to the US. On the Amazon side, he notes that warehouses are still throttling inbound capacity – via not accepting new product SKUs that lack historical sales data, limiting sellers to products that have a history of selling well, and then limiting how much they can send inbound to prevent inventory from building. Despite Amazon’s 50% increase in fulfillment square feet capacity this year, he notes that capacity takes time to reach efficiency, and he continues to anticipate capacity constraints through the Holidays.

Add it up and the 2020 holiday e-commerce season is likely to usher in a series of unprecedented data points. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that shopping earlier for the holidays is going to be wiser than ever before.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet’s global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.