Made-Up Corporate Shopping Holidays Are Massive Now, And It's Not Just Prime Day

From "Overstocktober" and Wayfair's "Way Day," corporate sales holidays have become common online. Just don't count on them to help turn a profit.

Online shopping has brought with it a whole new approach to the weekend sale.

Online furniture retailer Wayfair followed Amazon's footsteps last week with its inaugural one-day sales event called Way Day during which items were marked down by an additional 20% to 30%. That random Wednesday, CEO Niraj Shah told investors, was its "biggest revenue day in our history, and we expect that the event will grow further for us in future years."

Wayfair declined to provide details to BuzzFeed News. Edison Trends, a company that analyzes e-commerce trends, estimates that while customers spent on average about the same on Way Day as they did on average the previous month — an average of $276 on Way Day compared to $275 in March — its average number of unique buyers increased an estimated 400%.

Way Day illustrates a burgeoning trend across e-commerce platforms to abandon established sales calendars used by brick-and-mortar stores that center around weekend holidays, when people are more likely to be out shopping. Without the reliance on foot traffic, companies like Wayfair, Amazon, and eBay are experimenting with their own branded sales days as the importance of long weekend shopping events wane.

However, the boost during these promotional events doesn't always add up to a long-term increase in revenue and sales. "It’s much more about marketing," said Neil Saunders, an analyst at GlobalData Retail.

Amazon and Overstock have been running their own branded sales days with large success. Amazon's Prime Day in July 2017 resulted in the company's biggest-ever sales day until Cyber Monday topped it just a few months later.

Prime Day 2017 grew by more than 60% compared to the year before and more new members joined Prime on July 11 than on any single day in Amazon history, according to the company. Purchases also grew by 50% compared to the previous year.

eBay's Green Monday generated an estimated $1.6 billion in sales in 2016, according to Statista. "Whether it’s shoppers logging on after the weekend, waiting for great last-minute deals, or simply procrastinating, Green Monday continues to be a big online shopping day and ranked as eBay’s fourth highest sales day in 2016 and the third highest in 2015," the company told BuzzFeed News.

For about nine years, Overstock has held an anniversary sale in October — called Overstocktober — that CEO Patrick Byrne once described as "sort of an Overstock Black Friday." This year it plans to mark down products at an even deeper discount along with other promotions for its loyalty program members, the company told BuzzFeed News.

Yet despite its long track record, the last Overstocktober didn't leave much of a mark during a challenging time for the company. Even with a boost in marketing spend, revenue still fell by 13%, and the company reported a loss during the quarter that included both Overstocktober and the holiday season.

As for Way Day, the event follows a roughly $107 million net loss for Wayfair in the first quarter, nearly twice the loss for the same period a year ago.

GlobalData Retail's Saunders told BuzzFeed News that, unlike Way Day, Amazon's Prime Day contributes to the company's profitability because its part of the Prime ecosystem and drives new subscriptions.

"The thing with furniture is people don't buy it regularly," he said. "The repeat business is reasonable but much more infrequent. Some of the dynamics that are attractive for Amazon are not there for Wayfair."

At Etsy, under new CEO Josh Silverman, the company launched a discount tool for sellers to opt in to sales events such as Labor Day and Cyber Week. During a promotional week called "World of Etsy Sales Event" at the end of March, sellers discounted their items by 20% to 50%.

The company declined to provide comment on the sales and revenue from the World of Etsy, but Silverman told investors on a call in February that "pop-up" sales will continue to be a part of its sales growth strategy.

"What we are not is a discounter that's always in the business of discount," said Silverman. "However, many great retailers want occasional sales and promotions. And what I like about that for Etsy is it's a reason for buyers to think about us again and discover that we’re relevant more often throughout the year."

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