What Are Americans Buying on Labor Day?

Pattern Data Science

August 26, 2021

Labor Day is usually seen as the last big “hurrah” of the summer. A time for Americans to go on one more camping trip or have friends and family over for a big backyard BBQ before the kids return to school and cooler weather sets in.

It’s also a weekend when Americans look to do some shopping. In 2018, Americans spent $2 billion online on Labor Day, stocking up on everything from furniture to clothing to appliances and more.

Last year, however, brought a different approach to Labor Day shopping. According to our previous research, for example, back to school items saw demand drop during Fall 2020 compared to 2019.

So we dove deep into our data to learn more about how COVID-19 impacted online demand for some of the categories most associated with Labor Day sales in 2020, how things are trending in 2021 so far, and what that might mean for the future.

Did major categories experience increased demand during Labor Day last year?

First things first, let’s take a look at online demand from 2020 through this summer in a handful of the categories most associated with Labor Day purchases to see if the holiday moves the needle.

We started by examining the online demand for those categories during the week of Labor Day and comparing it to the average weekly demand throughout the rest of 2020. Here’s what we found:

It seems that plenty of people turned to online shopping to get their hands on some non-white shoes last year. From our pool of categories, shoes got the biggest Labor Day bump with a 21% increase in demand compared to the typical week during the rest of the year.

Labor Day week was the 12th biggest week of the year for shoes, making it a solid holiday for shoe sales, but definitely not peak shoe season.

The same was true for most of the other categories we examined as well. Labor Day brought solid if not astonishing increases in online demand, usually around a 10% increase over the average week.

Only outdoor games and activities saw a dip in demand, as Labor Day weekend is most likely a holiday when people bust out the cornhole and bocce ball sets they bought during the spring for one final game of the summer.

For a clearer picture, here’s how 2021 looked for each of the above categories.

Most of these categories experience their largest increases in demand during the summertime. By the time Labor Day rolls around, demand is still above the annual average, but well below previous high points.

Furniture and patio furniture both experienced their high points during the late spring and early summer. Camping and hiking equipment saw demand at its highest from June through the end of August, while shoes experienced even more dramatic highs during that same timeframe.

Outdoor games and activities, meanwhile, saw demand spike in the weeks immediately following lockdown, as Americans were eager for new forms of at-home entertainment. Interestingly, this is the only of these categories where the holiday shopping season brought a substantial boost in demand.

Either way you look at it, though, Labor Day wasn’t a major driver of online demand. It could be that Americans were more eager to do some in-person Labor Day shopping last year after spending a significant portion of the year in lockdown, or it could be that Labor Day simply isn’t the online shopping holiday that others are.

Still, looking at these trends got us curious about how these categories are looking so far in 2021. Has the COVID-19 pandemic had long-lasting repercussions on demand for shoes or camping gear? And how might those trends impact demand during Labor Day weekend this year?

Online demand is up in 2021 for all categories in our analysis

Last year, the pandemic had a clear impact on demand for each of the categories in our analysis. Furniture, patio furniture, and outdoor games all saw demand spike at the start of lockdown as people found themselves stuck at home for the foreseeable future.

Both shoes and camping/hiking equipment saw demand drop in the initial weeks of lockdown, only to rebound in a big way later in the summer.

So how has 2021 compared so far? Is demand up even more as things have reopened? Has the delta variant surge over recent months had any impact?

Let’s start with a broad look by comparing all of 2021 so far to the same timeframe in 2020.

It looks like the more things reopened this year, the more Americans decided they needed a new pair of shoes to venture out in. Online demand for shoes is up a whopping 157% in 2021 so far compared to the same timeframe in 2020.

Each of the categories in our analysis has seen demand up in 2021, though. Online demand for outdoor games and activities has been up 10% in 2021, while each of the other categories has experienced a nearly 30% increase.

For an even clearer picture, let’s next compare monthly demand for the past three years for each of the above categories.

The first half of 2021 has seen a huge surge in online demand for shoes

Comparing monthly demand in 2021 to what we saw in 2020 and in 2019 will help paint a much clearer picture of how the long term effects of the pandemic have impacted consumer behavior. So let’s start with demand for shoes, which we in the previous section has been up big this year.

2021 saw online demand skyrocket in March, which during a pre-pandemic year was far from the height of shoe shopping season. Our best guess is that this may have been due to the initial rollouts of the vaccine, as more and more Americans began to venture back out after a year practicing social distancing.

After a brief dip in April, demand shot back up in May and has remained consistently high throughout the summer. We will definitely be keeping a closer eye on this category as the back to school shopping season closes and Labor Day weekend approaches.

Online demand for furniture and outdoor furniture was up in early 2021, returning to near 2020 levels

Now let’s take a look at online demand for both indoor and outdoor furniture.

During a pre-pandemic year, online demand for furniture was remarkably consistent. It rose slightly over the spring and summer, and was slower during the winter months.

In 2020 we saw a huge surge in online demand for furniture after millions of Americans spent a month or two isolating at home, many clearly decided to invest in some new furniture to spruce up their surroundings.

Interestingly, 2021 also saw a surge in online demand for furniture early in the year, this time in March. The driving force behind this one is less clear than in 2020. Perhaps people were preparing to host in-person gatherings at home.

Either way, demand in 2021 has remained above 2020 levels every month of the year so far, although at diminishing levels each month. Patio furniture and accessories have seen a very similar trend to their indoors counterparts.

As you’d expect, a normal year saw online demand for patio furniture peak even more during the summer months. This trend was particularly exaggerated in 2020, again, likely due to more Americans than ever spending almost all of their free time at home.

2021 has also seen online demand stay consistently higher than in 2020, particularly earlier in the spring. This may simply be due to people getting more used to making larger purchases online after last year, or it could be that even more people were interested in upgrading their backyard lounging situation to prepare for some huge post-lockdown parties.

Online demand for camping and hiking equipment continues to soar to new heights in 2021

Camping and hiking equipment may not have had the same kind of total increase in 2021 that shoes experienced, but there’s no question that Americans are venturing out in big numbers this year.

2020 saw demand dip somewhat during the first months of lockdown, but rebound to slightly above 2019 figures during the summertime. 2021, meanwhile, has been nothing but a consistent month-over-month increase in online demand for camping and hiking gear.

Our analysis of camping gear back in May showed early signs that 2021 was going to be a big year for the category, and that certainly hasn’t changed. In fact, August was the biggest month of the year for camping and outdoor gear back in 2019, so there’s no reason to believe that this month might be the biggest month for the category yet.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on each of these categories and more as the summer comes to a close and Labor Day weekend comes and goes.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that Labor Day weekend may have only a moderate impact on online demand for key categories, but that COVID-19 has had a major impact.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we may see Labor Day weekend continue to be a more modest weekend when it comes to online sales, as Americans have spent this past summer online shopping for new shoes and camping gear.

It could be, however, that last year was an anomaly, and that Labor Day weekend may drive a surge in online sales for some of these key categories.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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Aug 4, 2022

How Disjointed Sellers Take Away Brand Control on Ecommerce Marketplaces

A top issue we see with brands struggling on ecommerce marketplaces is a loss of brand control due to disjointed sellers—those that aren't following your brand policies and guidelines when selling your products online. Disjointed sellers can be gray market, unauthorized, and rogue sellers, as well as 3P and other sellers that are noncompliant with your branding, pricing, and other forms of representation online.

It can be very easy for brands to lose control of their ecommerce strategy when they can’t get a handle on disjointed sellers. Typically, these brands are either stuck in a game of whack-a-mole or just ignoring the warning signs of bigger issues and hoping for the best. But, when disjointed selling isn't handled right, the consequences can be devastating to profitability. A loss of brand control doesn’t happen overnight, and the factors that contribute to it are long-standing. 

Erode Consumer Trust

Before the advent of ecommerce, brands favored a wide distribution. It was the easiest way to get products to as many distributors as possible. But wide distribution, when left unchecked, leads to leaky distribution—allowing your excess products to end up in the hands of unwanted sellers.

So brands that continue to operate with a wide distribution strategy are losing brand control and are damaging their brand equity and product performance. Why? You’re unable to monitor your products’ pricing, performance, or quality. You can’t dictate how you’re represented by each seller, creating an inconsistent and false representation of your brand to your new and existing consumers. These issues often lead to poor reviews and erode opportunities to build trust with future customers.

Wear Away Brand Equity

In today’s ecommerce landscape, marketplaces and digital platforms connect people and sellers to make online shopping simple and seamless. They also provide customers complete price transparency. Google, for instance, allows consumers to access any of your products on virtually every ecommerce channel and retail location and posts them side-by-side for you to comparison shop.

Now, everyone from your D2C distributors to large marketplace sellers, legitimate 3P sellers, and rogue and unauthorized sellers are on a level playing field—they’re all presented to the searching consumer, and that consumer has the purchase power.

Disjointed sellers have just as much power and authority to represent your brand as you do, without the same quality, pricing strategy, and customer focus as you.

Cause Competition and Price Matching Issues 

In most shopping scenarios, consumers will choose to purchase a product from whichever seller offers the lowest price. Marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart know this, and optimize their product selection based on all retail offers to serve consumers the lowest price for the same item.

This means that as one seller drops the price of your product, the next will follow, and then the next, etc. Everyone gains access to the product at or below MSRP. This opens the door for unauthorized sellers to purchase inventory during promotions or at discounted prices and then turn around and sell the same product slightly below competing sellers’ prices—for profit.  

As customers search for your product, they notice the cheaper price and purchase from the unauthorized seller, rather than paying the price you’ve established with your retail teams. Simultaneously, as Amazon monitors their product listing against other available channels, they notice they don’t have the lowest price. So Amazon, and other marketplaces, in service of the consumer, drop their price to match the lower price offered by an unauthorized seller. To stay competitive, your other channels follow suit. The cycle, also know as the profitability death spiral, continues to drive down the price of your product, grinding away your margins and profitability.

This doesn’t sound like much of a problem if your brand isn’t actively selling on ecommerce marketplaces, right? Unfortunately, it causes big issues for your brick-and-mortar sales, too. Large retail chains like Best Buy and Macy’s noticed this potential loss of sales from ecommerce and needed to defend and protect their profit. Retailers started telling brands that, in order to keep their products in-store (which accounts for 80% of most brands’ sales) they would need to lower their prices to match online prices. Which led to the concept of price matching. If a customer could prove the price of a product was lower somewhere else, Best Buy would match the lower price and charge the brand for the difference.

As other brick-and-mortar retailers jumped on the trend, brands started to see large losses in their margins.

Gain Ecommerce Control with Pattern

The danger that disjointed sellers pose to brands is enormous—without a way to control all of a brand’s distribution points on ecommerce, your brand spins farther and farther down the profitability death spiral. Using custom technology and data-driven insights, Pattern can identify disjointed and unauthorized sellers for your brand and develop a custom strategy tailored to your specific needs to address these big issues as soon as possible. Then, Pattern partners with the econtrol law firm, VORYs, to enforce take downs and save brands who find themselves caught on any stage of the death spiral.

With the right resources and expert help, we’ve helped hundreds of brands to regain their footing and control on ecommerce, win the buy box, and grow their sales. 

Contact us today to regain your brand control.

Aug 4, 2022

Ecommerce Innovators Podcast - Achieving Growth Through Technology

Join us for Ecommerce Innovators, a podcast that brings together the brightest minds in the industry to explore innovative strategies and trends in global ecommerce. We'll analyze what top brands are doing to accelerate their online success and you’ll hear from top executives who are changing the game for their organizations. Our host is John LeBaron, Chief Revenue Officer at Pattern—the premier partner for global ecommerce acceleration.

Listen on Spotify

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In our conversation with John Wessel, CTO and SVP of Product & Digital at Fresh Water Systems, he talks about digital transformation, innovation, and growth. Hear about the many hats John’s wears, how the company has transformed since the 90s to stay cutting edge, the pharmacy part of the business, aligning and prioritizing multiple channels, and competing with Amazon.

Ecommerce Innovators Episode Synopsis

As we interviewed John Wessel, here are some things we learned:

Content leads to search ranking. For Fresh Water Systems’ ecommerce site, around 70% of their traffic is to the blog. The secret for content is “well-researched, well-written, long form content that is informative”. John explained that they have an SEO team who writes 5000+ word posts that are researched and documented. People read these blogs and comment, which drives more traffic to the blogs.

Ecommerce is changing the shopping game. John shared an interesting story about a plumber who orders parts every Friday night online, from wherever he can get the best price. He doesn’t have relationships with one supplier or an auto-renew subscription for his parts. Instead, he finds the best price just for the parts he needs every week. John thinks the trend of price shopping will continue, especially as ecommerce grows.

Invest in customer engagement, but don’t invest a lot of time into emails. How many advertising emails do you actually read? Companies often spend a lot of time doing A/B tests and crafting the “perfect” email. However, John pointed out that almost no one reads emails anymore. Instead, invest your time into different brand touchpoints you will have with your customer. You can still send emails, but make sure you dedicate less time to the process.

Listen to the full episode for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Aug 3, 2022

How Pattern Took Sylvania Beyond Amazon to Achieve Double Digit Growth

As the leading automotive supplier and long-time brick-and-mortar brand of high performance lighting products, Sylvania was facing challenges to increase profitability on ecommerce.  Exclusively available on Amazon and direct to consumer, Sylvania built a strong seller network, with huge market share, but was having issues with compliance and optimizing ecommerce.

As the top ecommerce accelerator, partnering with Pattern provides the expertise and deep marketplace knowledge to identify additional marketplace opportunities for brands, and the strategic teams to effectively launch on global marketplaces. Partnering with Pattern was critical for Sylvania to grow its profitability on and beyond Amazon.  

Pattern Develops and Launches a Custom Marketplace Playbook

By effectively evaluating the opportunity for new customer growth, increasing profitability, and outperforming competitors, Pattern’s marketplace experts and brand managers went above and beyond to help Sylvania diversify its ecommerce portfolio.  

In addition to creating an eBay storefront, Sylvania expanded its products to Target+ and Walmart.com. In some instances, like on Walmart, Sylvania was already available on the marketplace but changed its strategy from a 1P seller model, which has its own challenges and roadblocks, to a 3P partner seller model–naming Pattern as its partner.

Whether it was launching on new marketplaces or shifting its seller strategy to achieve greater marketplace success, Sylvania benefited from Pattern’s relationships with and deep understanding of how to succeed on marketplaces.  

In addition, as an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern invests in Sylvania’s product and manages the brand’s entire ecommerce journey on each marketplace. This partnership takes the stress and fear out of launching somewhere new so the brand does not need to understand the nuances, best practices, and details of each individual marketplace.

Sylvania Sales Jump Almost 100%

Not only did Pattern help Sylvania with their simple goal to increase its availability on marketplaces beyond Amazon, the ecommerce accelerator helped the automotive supplier achieve: 

Exponential Sales Growth:

  • 97% sales revenue growth YoY from November 2018 to November 2019

  • 151% unit sales growth YoY from November 2018 to November 2019

Flawless Marketplace Growth:

  • Sylvania has expanded to Amazon, eBay, Target+ and Walmart, all with Pattern’s strategic marketplace expertise and knowledge

  • Target+ is difficult to get approved to sell on, but Pattern’s marketplaces team and its resources was the necessary advantage to get Sylvania listed

    • Pattern managed the administrative and compliance logistics to get products approved, listed, and optimized to match other marketplaces

    • Pattern is also working with Target to redefine categories so they better match Sylvania’s products 

  • Pattern’s customer service team helped Sylvania’s eBay business achieve 100% positive customer feedback

Pattern has the resources necessary for a brand to take control on existing and launch on new marketplaces.

"Pattern is truly an extension of our brand. They know what they are doing when it comes to everything needed for a brand to succeed on marketplaces.”

- Chris Mitchell, Sylvania OmniChannel Analytics Manager

Contact us today to build your game plan for and take control of your marketplace strategy.