If ever there was a shopping holiday whose time has come, it has to be Cyber Monday.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and California brick-and-mortar retailers facing stiff restrictions as a result, online buying is expected to get a boost this holiday season. A growing number of consumers have turned to online shopping in recent years, buoyed by deep discounts and the convenience of fast delivery.

Big numbers

BlackFriday.com predicts Cyber Monday e-commerce sales will hit $10 billion this year, up from $9.4 billion in 2019, $7.9 billion in 2018 and $6.59 billion in 2017.

Retailers are bracing for a softer holiday season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but e-commerce buying is expected to rise 35.8% to $190.47 billion, according to Insider Intelligence.

That’s a $50 billion increase, and it will offset an expected 4.7% decline in in-store holiday sales, boosting overall holiday buying by 0.9% to more than $1 trillion, the analytics firm said.

BlackFriday.com predicts Cyber Monday e-commerce sales will hit $10 billion this year, up from $9.4 billion in 2019, $7.9 billion in 2018 and $6.59 billion in 2017.

The cost of returns

Will all of this online shopping permanently whittle away a sizable chunk of in-store buying? Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based retail consulting firm, doesn’t think so.

“In the short term, yes,” he said. “But the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about is all of the returns. That will be bigger than ever this holiday season and the cost to retailers will be substantial.”

Beyond that, a wide range of consumers still like to see and feel clothing and other merchandise before buying, Phibbs said, and they don’t want to be overwhelmed by an endless online selection of products.

“If I need to buy a new ink cartridge for my printer, sure I’ll buy that online,” he said. “But if I’m outfitting a new home office I don’t want to scroll through 1,800 choices for desks and chairs. I want to see choices that are already curated.”

Deep discounts

Regardless of preference, a broad array of deep discounts will be available come Cyber Monday.

Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy, are previewing some of their Cyber Monday deals this week. Amazon’s bargains include an Echo smart hub that will be selling for $69.99 (30% off), a Fire HD tablet priced at $54.99 (a $35 discount) and Lacoste apparel, shoes and accessories, all selling for up to 30% off.

Walmart will be selling $89.99 IPX7 wireless Bluetooth headphones for $20.99 and Best Buy will feature a Parrot-ANAFI drone with Skycontroller for $599.99, a $300 discount.

Kevin Bourland, a Realtor with the Compass real estate agency in Pasadena, said he’s boosted his online buying as a result of COVID-19 although he’s not necessarily tuned in to Cyber Monday.

“It really doesn’t move me either way,” he said. “I’m usually sparked by something I see on Instagram or Facebook — something that’s in my wheelhouse. But I also try to support local merchants.”

Bourland said his business has managed to successfully navigate COVID-19.

“The way we present and market houses is very different and the process takes a little longer,” he said. “But we’ve been able to pivot, and the market in the Pasadena area is still good.”

The best deals

BlackFriday.com predicts that some of the deepest Cyber Monday discounts will be in clothing:

  • Amazon: 50% off clothing from its in-house brands (including Amazon Essentials, Goodthreads)
  • Ann Taylor: 50% off
  • Banana Republic: 50% off
  • Gap: 60% off
  • Kohl’s: 20% off
  • Old Navy: 60% off
  • Nordstrom: 50% off

“This holiday season will see a continuation of the channel-shift to e-commerce, as shoppers look to avoid crowds and minimize their number of in-person shopping trips,” Insider Intelligence analyst Andrew Lipsman said in a statement.

But there could be a downside, he said.

“With these huge gains expected, there’s growing concern around the potential for ‘shippageddon,’ where high package volumes overwhelm logistics capacity and result in deliveries arriving after Christmas,” Lipsman said.

Phibbs stressed that in-store and online retail are distinctly different experiences.

“We are social animals,” he said. “The reason you go out into the world is to discover something new. We go online to buy … but we go to stores to shop.”