Adobe: Apparel drives record year-over-year online inflation growth

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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clothing rack
Online prices notably rose from November 2020.

While holiday discounts brought online prices down in November 2021 from the previous month, growth from the previous year hit new heights.

According to Adobe Digital Economy Index (DEI) data for the month of November 2021, online prices hit a record high 3.5% year-over-year (YoY) increase, even as they fell 2% month-over-month (MoM) due to holiday discounts. This is the highest YoY increase since Adobe first began tracking the digital economy in 2014, and it marks the 18th consecutive month of YoY online inflation.

Apparel was a standout category with prices up 17.3% YoY, and down just 0.4% MoM, reaching a record high of inflation. One dollar out of every four dollars is now spent online in the U.S., according to Adobe.

In November 2021, 11 of the 18 categories tracked by the Adobe Digital Price Index saw YoY price increases. Apparel prices rose faster than any other category, while price drops were observed in seven categories: electronics, personal care products, office supplies, jewelry, books, toys and computers. On a MoM basis, all but four categories (groceries, pet products, tools/home improvement and medical equipment/supplies) saw prices decrease as holiday discounts kicked in.

  • Apparel: Prices are up 17.3% YoY and down 0.4% MoM. Since 2014, only three months (August 2016, January 2020, February 2020) saw apparel prices rise online by 9% or more YoY. For the past eight consecutive months, online prices for the category have risen by over 9% YoY every month.
  • Groceries: Prices are up 3.9% YoY and up 0.6% MoM. Online prices have risen on an annual basis for 22 months, in step with the Consumer Price Index, which captures prices that consumers are paying for groceries in physical stores.
  • Electronics: Prices are down 0.4% YoY and down 4.0% MoM. Historically (2015–2019), prices were down 9.06% YoY on average for the category, which includes gaming consoles, mobile devices, televisions and wearables. On Cyber Monday 2021, consumers paid more for electronics compared to years past, with price drops in the 12% range versus 27% range.
  • Appliances: Prices are up 4% YoY and down 2.7% MoM. The category has seen 19 consecutive months of online inflation on an annual basis.
  • Toys: Prices are down 2.9% YoY and down 3.6% MoM. On Cyber Monday 2021, toys was the only category where price drops were greater than last season, in the 22% range vs. the 19% range.

[Read more: Cyber Monday still biggest e-commerce day – but how big?]

“Ongoing supply chain constraints and durable consumer demand have underpinned the record-high inflation in e-commerce, with apparel seeing high volumes of out-of-stock messages online compared to other categories,” said Patrick Brown, VP of growth marketing and insights, Adobe. “With offline prices surging in the Consumer Price Index, however, it is still cheaper to shop online for categories such as toys, computers and sporting goods.”

The Adobe Digital Economy Index (DEI) uses the Fisher Price Index to track e-commerce prices. The Fisher Ideal Price Index uses quantities of matched products purchased in the current period (month) and a previous period (previous month) to calculate the price changes by category. Adobe’s analysis is weighted by the real quantities of the products purchased in the two adjacent months. Based on Adobe Analytics, the Adobe DEI analyzes 1 trillion visits to retail sites and over 100 million SKUs in 18 product categories.