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Amazon Prime Day 2021: Discounts may not be all that prime

CBS News logo CBS News 6/22/2021 Aimee Picchi
text, chat or text message: In this photo illustration an Amazon Prime day logo seen © AP In this photo illustration an Amazon Prime day logo seen

Amazon.com's two-day Prime Day event  is June 21-22 this year, with other major retailers like Walmart elbowing in on the action with their own sales. But the summer discounts offered by Amazon and its competitors may not match the kind of door-busting sales that are typically available before the holidays, market researchers say. 

The discounts offered to shoppers during the Prime Day event are typically below 10%, according to research from Adobe, which analyzed aggregate sales data at retailers including Amazon and its competitors from 2020's Prime Day. By comparison, the annual Cyber Monday weekend, which falls after Thanksgiving, typically offers discounts that are twice as deep, their analysis found. 

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That may not deter shoppers from splurging on Amazon's Prime Day, given that 6 in 10 Americans told Adobe they plan to shop during Prime Day this year. Americans are opening their wallets like never before as the pandemic recedes and retailers, restaurants and other businesses reopen. Almost one-third of consumers surveyed by Adobe said they even plan to spend some of their stimulus money at the shopping event.  

"We expect Prime Day this year will surpass the 2020 Cyber Monday levels" of spending, Jason Woosley, vice president, commerce product and platform, at Adobe Experience Cloud, told CBS MoneyWatch. "It's a huge lift happening in the middle of June."

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The best categories to score deals are expected to be in toys and electronics, with last year's Prime Day showing discounts of about 8% and 7%, respectively, Adobe's data found. Sporting goods had the smallest discount, at 1.2%. 

"There's just not a lot of discounting," Woosley said. "For a retailer, it's tolerable — they can generate buzz without sacrificing too much."

Why is Prime Day in June this year?

When Amazon first started Prime Day in 2015, it scheduled the event in July — a schedule it stuck to until the pandemic hit last year. Because of the disruption, Amazon pushed back Prime Day in 2020 to October. But this year, it has moved the event a month earlier than normal. 


Video: Prime Day: Competing Retailers Offer Deals As Amazon Sales Event Returns (CBS SF Bay Area)

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One reason, marketing experts said, could be to avoid sharing the global spotlight with the 2021 Olympics, which kicks off in Japan on July 23, but some experts point out that pushing the event to June places the sale in the second quarter — a typically slow time for retailers. On top of that, Amazon is facing tough comparisons with the year-earlier period, when many consumers switched to online purchases due to lockdowns and fears about brick-and-mortar shopping as the pandemic spread. 

And don't underestimate the appeal of a final Prime Day blockbuster in June for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who formerly passes the chief executive's torch to successor Andy Jassy on July 5, 27 years to the day Bezos first incorporated the Amazon.com business concept.

Will the pandemic impact prices?

It's possible that the semiconductor shortage could impact the pricing and availability of some products that need chips, such as TVs, said Nathan Burrows, senior deals editor at the New York Times' product-recommendation site, Wirecutter. Goodies like game consoles, which have been in short supply this past year amid rising demand and supplier shortages, are likely to sell at full price or close to it, he said. 

Rising inflation on everyday household items could also have an impact on Prime Day, leading to smaller discounts than previous years, Burrows added. Prices for everything from grocery items to appliances are on the rise, according to recent data. 

"All of this means that shoppers have more reason than ever to be skeptical of supposed deals," Burrows said. 

What other retailers will offer sales? 

But while "legitimate sales" may be hard to find during Prime Day, consumers will likely have more stores to comparison shop this year, according to Burrows.

Walmart, for one, is running a rival sale called "Deals for Days," which started a day earlier than Prime Day and ends a day later — from June 20 to 23. The retailer said it will offer deals on electronics like the iHome Nova Auto Empty Mopping Robot for $299.00, down from its regular price of $599.00.

Best Buy, meanwhile, has already been running its "The Bigger Deal" sale, which ends June 22. Target, for its part, is offering a "Deal Days" event from June 20 to 22. Additional retailers may also edge in on the competition with their own sales, so experts advise consumers to comparison shop. 

Price comparison tools like CamelCamelCamel can be helpful in figuring out if you are really getting a good price.

What will be the best Prime Day deals?

It's likely that Amazon will continue with its tradition of offering steep discounts on its own electronics, such as Kindle e-book readers and Echo smart speakers, Burrows said. 

Other products to keep an eye on are kitchen appliances like instant pots or coffee makers, personal care appliances like electric toothbrushes, baby gear such as car seats and strollers, and vacuums and headphones, among other types of products, according to Wirecutter. 

Amazon already offered some pre-Prime Day sales, such as $50 off the Apple Watch Series 6 GPS model in 40mm size and $150 off Shark's AI Robot Vacuum (RV2001). 

Before buying, do your research, said Adobe's Woosley. "Don't just assume it's the best deal because it's put in front of you," he said.

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