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Election Anxiety Has Cost Online Retailers $800 Million

Close up of senior woman buying online at homeClose up of senior woman buying online at home

Shopper anxiety related to last week’s U.S. election is taking a toll on retailers, according to two data providers.

Consumers who were riveted and stressed out by the close presidential context last week held back on spending, costing online retailers $800 million between Nov. 1 and Nov. 14, according to data released on Thursday by Adobe Digital Insights. And the declined worsened after the election itself, when Republican candidate Donald Trump stunned the world with a win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The hit was so hard that total e-commerce growth was 1.3% during the period, well below the 7.8% Adobe had forecast. Adobe aggregates data from 18.1 billion visits to retail web sites.

Not even deals could sway shoppers after the polarizing results. Discounting nearly doubled on Election Day, Nov. 8, compared with the same day in 2015, and rose 40% in the last week of October from a year earlier, according to EDITED, a data service that tracks major fashion and footwear brands. Yet product sellouts were down by 60% during the same timeframe.


With the Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday period now days away, retailers have time to make up the shortfall. But those five days will be a crucial test of shoppers’ moods and what they are gravitating to.

“Sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday next week will be an important indicator of how much sales expectations need to be adjusted this shopping season,” Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director at Adobe Digital Insights, said in a press release.

For all the angst, total season forecasts by the National Retail Federation and top retailers suggest that any shortfall in sales will be made up. On conference calls with reporters, the CEOs of both Target (TGT) and Walmart U.S. said there was no sign that the election was affecting shoppers. And Forrester Research this week predicted online sales in November and December would hit $112 billion, up 13% from last year.