Lessons from Event Days 2020

For many retailers Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the start of a ‘peak’ sales period that goes all the way through to the end of the year. For each of the last few years we’ve seen November’s sales events produce bigger and bigger online sales numbers. We’re expecting even bigger numbers this year so we’re looking back on the numbers and trends from last year to help inform how retailers approach the upcoming sales event season.

Expectations for Sales Events 2021

Based on year-to-date actual sales numbers and historic sales trends to year-end, we’ve been predicting that 2021 would be the biggest online shopping year ever, with total online sales of between $6.25b to $6.8b. With further lockdowns since we made those initial estimates, we now expect the year to be at the mid-to-higher end of that range.

Pre-lockdown, we estimated that this November - the month all three sales event days fall in - would be around 11% higher than last year. That would see nearly $650m in online sales, compared to $585m last year, making it the biggest online sales month ever. Some of the reasons for our strong growth prediction include: 

  • Retail overall is having a good year with strong retail growth.
  • There are more people online than there was a year ago.
  • So far in 2021, we’ve seen online shoppers buy more often and spend more each time.
  • There is greater awareness amongst shoppers about event days.
  • There are more retailers participating in event days.
  • The reduced ability to travel, and the extra discretionary spend it creates, was thought to be a key driver behind last year’s big online increase. Lack of travel continues to be a shopping driver this year.  
  • Low unemployment rates.
  • More Kiwis are getting their Christmas shopping completed early while items are on sale. 

Based on what we saw last year, the latest lockdowns could see November’s online sales growth be even greater than what we first predicted. Either way, we’re getting ready for bigger volumes than last year and a continuation of the trends that were starting to emerge.  We think you should be doing the same. 

A reminder of 2020’s numbers and trends

Despite talk of a global recession, November 2020 retail shopping volumes hit new all-time highs. At a massive $5b, November 2020 was the biggest November retail spending month ever.

Total spend (online and off) in November 2020


Total spend
November 2020


November 2020 spend
up on November 2019


Black Friday retail spend -
the biggest shopping day of 2020

Physical (instore) sales grew by a strong 8% but it was online that saw the biggest growth, up a whopping 27% on the November before. There were over five million online transactions, delivering sales of $585m. 70% of this spend was with retailers here in New Zealand.

Online Shopping November 2020 (Compared to November 2019)


Total Shoppers
(up 11%)


Average transaction
per shopper (up 4.4%)


Average basket
size (up 11%)

Singles Day (11/11) is the largest sales event in the world, with Asian markets leading the way. Here in New Zealand, it still lags well behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday but is a clear signal that event season has begun.  

Two key trends emerged on Singles Day last year: (1) Sales growth started much earlier than previous years with big global players, like Alibaba, kicking off their Singles Day promotions two weeks prior to the day; and (2) Singles Day has become more than a one-day event, with over $20m in sales for each of the days either side of it last year. We’d expect both these trends to continue in 2021.

Singles Day Online 2020


2020 spend
(199k transactions)


2019 spend
(203k transactions)


Growth in spend
(transaction down 2%)

Like Singles Day, 2020 Black Friday sales started earlier than previous years with a number of big players running pre-Black Friday sales. Despite this, sales peaked on Black Friday with $34m spent online, making it the largest single online spend day of 2020. Cyber Monday wasn’t far behind on $33m. Over the four shopping days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday we saw online spend of $115m, up 30% from $88m on the same four days in 2019.

Black Friday Online 2020


2020 spend
(260k transactions)


2019 spend
(221k transactions)


Growth in spend
(transaction up 18%)

Cyber Monday Online 2020


2020 spend
(260k transactions)


2019 spend
(210k transactions)


Growth in spend
(transaction up 24%)


What we learnt

All New Zealand

The top three regions, by online sales, were not surprisingly Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury. But sales events aren’t just a big city thing. Growth was seen right around the country with Hawke's Bay, Marlborough and Nelson leading the way. These regions, plus Taranaki and Gisborne, have continued to experience strong growth in 2021. We’d expect all these regions to see further growth in this year’s sales events.


All Ages

Last November’s online sales volumes were dominated by the 35-50 age group (over $268m). Given the size of this group, we’d expect they’ll lead the way again this year.  Last year we also saw a younger group (15-20) and the older segment (75+) both experienced strong growths. Both have continued to grow in 2021 and we should see further growth in 2021’s sales events.

online shopping

Buy Now Pay Later

Last year, Buy Now Pay Later deferred payment sales were up 42% on November 2019. Throughout 2021, BNPL has continued to grow strongly, setting up an expectation that it will again feature prominently in this year’s sales event spending. If you offer it, we suggest you make sure your customers are aware.


Supply Chain Challenges

Last year COVID related supply chain challenges impacted stock levels, meaning some online retailers choose not to participate in sales events. Others, in the same position, offered items they didn’t yet have in stock, with a promise to deliver when they could. The Kiwi public have become tolerant of stock delays but make sure you are open about expected delivery timeframes.

Parcel Boxes

Across all sectors

Last November, all domestic sectors experienced positive growth through sales events. The largest sales growth (compared to the year before) came in Homewares, Appliances & Electronics (61%) and Clothing & Footwear (45%). Marketplaces were another big winner, up 34%. Expect these same sectors to feature strongly again in shopper preferences this year.

person unwrapping box

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