An Amazon driver delivers packages in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 27, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Amazon’s Prime Day sales event is officially underway for the second time this year. The online retailer’s Prime Big Deal Days is expected to bring in $8.1 billion this year, according to an Adobe Analytics forecast.
The 48-hour sale offers exclusive deals for Amazon Prime members and marks the official start of the holiday shopping season for the e-commerce retailer — well before most forecasts include sales in the “holiday sales” time periods.
Forty-one percent of consumers say they have already started or plan to shop by the end of October, according to the Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse survey out Tuesday.
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The Amazon sale event comes as Americans face mounting economic pressures, including rising interest rates, persistent inflation and the restart of student loan payments. Those pressures are driving cost-conscious shoppers to stock up now on holiday gifts.
Those competing forces “create a battle for consumer spending,” Nick Handrinos, vice chairman and leader of Deloitte LLP’s retail and consumer products practice, recently told CNBC.
Electronics, toys and games, personal care and cosmetics are among the categories shoppers plan to buy during this Prime Big Deal Days event, according to the latest weekly consumer insights poll conducted by CoreSight Research. (For more on Prime Day deals, check out NBC Select’s roundup of savings.)
So how good are the deals compared to prices at other times of the year? It depends on the category.
“Many of us expected [Tuesday] especially to be more impressive than it has been,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com.
“While there are some good offers on Amazon devices and services,” she said, “outside of those, it’s been somewhat lackluster.”
Best days to buy on Amazon
CNBC analyzed daily pricing data provided by Jungle Scout, a platform providing tools to Amazon sellers, for 19 products from the most popular categories sold on Amazon.com by Amazon directly or the brand itself between September 2022 and September 2023.
CNBC found the best prices for electronics and toys is typically during Amazon’s summer Prime Day sale, compared to other major shopping events. But those still are not necessarily the best prices of the year.
For health and beauty products, shoppers will likely find the best prices during the Black Friday sales event. However, the fall Prime event might have better prices for home goods.
For the best prices, DealNews.com’s Ramhold recommends waiting until late October or November, when the discounts will be greater.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company was unable to comment on the accuracy of CNBC’s findings without seeing the research. CNBC declined to provide that data in advance of publication.
All deals must meet the site’s bar for “quality savings,” the spokeswoman said. It must be the lowest price offered to customers in the past 30 days, among other criteria.
“Every deal in our store must offer trustworthy savings for customers as compared to verifiable reference prices, whether it’s a regular shopping day or during one of Amazon’s major deals events, such as Prime Big Deal Days, Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” she said.
While the July Prime event had the deepest discounts for electronics when compared with other similar retail shopping sales events, for three of the four electronics tracked, the Prime sales events were not the best prices of the year.
In fact, the best prices happened on days that were not key shopping event days.
Only the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s lowest price of the year coincided with one of the e-commerce shopping days outlined above. The media streaming device was listed for $54.99 throughout most of the year. During the July Prime sale, the product’s price dropped roughly 55% to $24.99.
iRobot’s Roomba 694, however, was the only product among the group that was cheaper on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, instead of the July Prime Days. In March, the robotic vacuum spiked to its highest price of $269. At its lowest, the Roomba was listed at $122.30.
During the period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers could snag a Roomba 694 for $179. But that price wasn’t exclusive to the popular shopping weekend. In fact, the Roomba was listed at that price at several points throughout the year.
Pricing data for the Sony XB13 Extra Bass portable wireless speaker was unavailable for Black Friday and Cyber Monday so we don’t know for sure if the price would have been lower on those days. Regardless, the July Prime event offered a deeper discount to shoppers when compared to last year’s October Prime sale and Super Saturday.
Health and beauty products
Some popular health and beauty products are likely to be on sale Tuesday and Wednesday. But if last year’s holiday discounts are any indicator, expect to see even more products on sale on Black Friday.
The Revlon One-Step Volumizer Plus 2.0 hair dryer and hot air brush, for example, was only on sale for $29.09 three days last year, all of which were during the week of Black Friday. At its highest, the popular hair-styling tool was listed at $59.99. The product did go on sale during last October’s Prime member event and this past July’s Prime sale, but the discounts were not as deep.
Crest 3-D White Professional Effects teeth-whitening kit, Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original acne patches and Philips Sonicare 4100 electric toothbrush also dropped to their lowest prices of the year last Black Friday. These products saw the same discounts during several other key shopping days, as well.
One product that’s nearly certain to be discounted steadily throughout the season is the Crest kit, which was marked down from its highest level of $48.99 to $29.99 during every single major shopping day.
The Philips Norelco Multigroomer All-in-One Trimmer Series 3000 didn’t reach it’s lowest price during last season’s Black Friday, but it came very close, costing only 40 cents more than its lowest price of the year of $17.56 on every shopping holiday except the July Prime event.
When it comes to home products, consumers may consider filling up carts over the next two days and finalizing those purchases. Three out of the four products tracked by CNBC reported their lowest price of the year during last October’s Prime Member sale, including the Hilife Steamer, Keurig K-Mini Single Serve coffee maker and Ninja AF101 air fryer.
The Bissell Little Green Portable Cleaner 1400B was the only exception. The product was listed at $123.59 at its highest, and $70.31 at its lowest for the year. Throughout retail shopping events, the price fell to a low of $86 during the July Prime sale, and was not discounted at all during the October event.
Somewhat surprisingly, all five products within the toys and games category analyzed by CNBC reported their lowest retail shopping event prices during July’s Prime sale, but the prices weren’t the lowest of the year. The CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ doll, Hot Wheels “Criss Cross Crash” track set and Squishmallows Kellytoy 8-inch Plush Mystery Pack all saw lower prices at other points throughout the year compared to their shopping holiday lows.
For shoppers buying toys during the holiday season, the pricing data might be disappointing. Only the SEREED Baby Balance Bike hit its lowest price of the year, dropping from its high of $49.99 to $39.99 on every retail shopping holiday except Super Saturday.
While the Squishmallows Mystery Pack was discounted from its high of $26.99 to $22.99 during every single retail shopping event from last October’s Prime sale through this past summer’s Prime Sale, the price ended up being lower in early July.
Are Prime shopping events losing their luster?
Several data points suggest these Prime Day sales events might be losing their luster with shoppers. Perhaps Amazon shoppers are starting to pick up on pricing patterns, or maybe big sale days just aren’t as exciting as they were a few years ago.
Amazon uses exclusive Prime Member shopping days to help drive new subscriptions for the membership service, but fewer people have access to Prime membership benefits in 2023. According to multiyear data from Coresight Research’s U.S. consumer surveys, those with access to Prime benefits have fallen below 75% for the first time since March 2018.
Like other subscription services and goods, prices for the Prime membership have steadily increased since the first Prime Day event was introduced, though features have been added. In 2015, a Prime membership was $99 a year, now it’s $139.
Downloads of Amazon’s shopping app have declined steadily during each subsequent Prime member shopping event since Amazon’s Prime Days in July 2021, according to data intelligence platform Apptopia, which tracks mobile app usage for brands like Amazon.
Declining downloads alone may not be a sign of interest waning among shoppers, but when combined with a drop-off in daily active users over the last two Prime shopping events, and a deceleration in the number of times users are interacting with the Amazon app during these events, it becomes more likely consumers are feeling Prime Day fatigue.
Further detail on pricing analysis methodology
The products that CNBC analyzed from Jungle Scout’s daily pricing data spanned four different key holiday shopping categories including electronics, health and beauty, home and toys and games. Many of the products appear regularly on Amazon’s top sellers list.
To narrow down the results, CNBC only included data for products sold by Amazon.com, Amazon Warehouse, which often includes items returned by prior buyers, and the brand manufacturers. Third-party marketplace sellers were not included.
In some instances, Jungle Scout was unable to retrieve pricing data on products for certain days, which could be a result of a variety of outcomes including the product being sold out or unavailable at the time the data was extracted.
— CNBC’s Jess Dickler contributed to this report.
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