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Reading The Tea Leaves In The Amazon Prime Day Sales Pushes

The big day is finally here: Amazon Prime Day has arrived. Granted it’s a little bit late this year, showing up in mid-October instead of its early July perch, but this year it comes with a whole new significance as analysts and experts have anointed Prime Day 2020 the New Black Friday insofar as it is now the unofficial retail kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

With the holiday shopping season officially starting before the Halloween decorations are even fully up (let alone down), it is safe to assume that Prime Day’s 5th official run will be something quite different from its previous four iterations.

What’s not changing however, is the fact that Prime Day is forecast to create some serious spending action among consumers — official estimates before the official kickoff from eMarketer are calling for global sales of nearly $10 billion. Of the total $9.91 billion predicted in Prime Day 2020 global sales, $6.17 billion is expected to be generated by U.S. consumers. That, incidentally, represents a big pick-up on Prime Day 2019 (itself a record-breaker for the Amazon-authored holiday) which generated $6.93 billion in sales globally and $4.32 billion in the U.S.

If that $10 billion prediction holds and Amazon meets to beats expectations on the day, saying it will be a big or even record-breaking day for Amazon will be something of an understatement. Doing some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations using some of the data breadcrumbs Amazon has dropped over the years on its sales figures, PYMTS calculations indicate that a $10 billion Prime Day would represent roughly 2 percent of Amazon’s total annual sales, or about eight times more than its normal daily sales volume.

Clearly a big day, and a big stage for brands looking to capture the customer’s attention on a day so many will be wired in and looking for deals. And deals there are — google the words “Prime Day” to see how many separate lists one can pull up of the “absolute, must have deals this Prime Day” written across what seems like an infinite number of websites. As is about normal those deal range from items expected to show up on holiday shoppers’ radar — televisions, laptops, Airpods, apparel — to the genuinely weird — the reversible sequins couch pillow with Keanu Reeves’ face on it, for example.

And while a lot of brands big and small roll out their deal-making skills for Prime Day, in 2020 one subset of those deals caught our eye as a bit of a standout. It is turning out to be an unusually great year for purchasing luggage, backpacks and outdoor gear.

The Surge In Luggage Sales

Luggage sales are a fairly standard part of the annual Prime Day event, but travel industry reporting indicates that in 2020 the brands are better and the discounts are deeper than average, running as high as 70 percent in some cases. Brands included in the deep cuts include Samsonite, Delsey Paris and American Tourister.

And the deals run the gamut. Unlike in previous years where brands might discount one bag in a set while leaving the rest full price, this year the discounts go beyond the suitcases to the entire line. Backpacks, weekender bags, duffles — even toiletries bags are marked down.

That sudden bump in bag sales seems someone connected to a pick-up in outdoor gear items on sale in 2020 — particularly in regards to the deep discounts available on things like North Face backpacks on the site. Sales on tents, tomahawks, water filters, sleeping bags and “tactical pens” have all also shown up with deeper discounts in 2020 than have been observed before.

What It All Means (If Anything)

That there is a spike in outdoor gear on sale this Prime Day isn’t much of a surprise, given Americans’ swell of enthusiasm for getting back to nature during the pandemic period. There is a clear and growing market for camping gear in the U.S. and around the world — and Prime Day seems like an excellent place to meet the growing customer base.

The luggage, though, is a slightly more perplexing place to see doubling down on sales action — since consumers aren’t traveling all that much these days and ipso facto aren’t buying all that much luggage.

And in fact two possible theories can come into play here — one slightly more optimistic than the other. The first is the obvious: brands that have hit a slump are using Prime Day as an excellent opportunity to unload a lot of unsold inventory to consumers primed (no pun intended) to buy and on the hunt for a good deal. And, in fact, there is evidence of that strategy all over Prime Day as it unfolds. High-end and even some designer handbags, for example, are also showing up on sale all over Prime Day — a segment that data out earlier this week indicates has been hit hard by diminished consumer spending, particularly among younger customers.

Prime Day and its commerce-enthused customers on the one hand are offering retailers a good opportunity to leverage some light discounting to break up a slow year’s inventory backlog instead of having to resort to really deep discounting later in the season to move the same goods.

But a possible interpretation of all those luggage sales springing up is also that after a long chill, consumers are starting to warm up to the idea of traveling a little bit more as the weather starts to cool and the holiday season looms. It might just be looking like a good time to sell a customer a new bag if one thinks recovery in the travel sector is starting to show signs of actually getting off the ground heading into holiday 2020.

Which interpretation to go with? It probably isn’t possible to really know until Prime Day is past, and the sales data is in. If consumers snap up all that luggage on sale, that’s probably a pretty good sign for the travel industry. If it continues to languish on the digital shelf, even on a Prime Day sale, it’s a pretty good sign travel is likely to remain stuck at the gate a while longer.

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