NRF Forecasts Highest Holiday Retail Sales on Record
October 28, 2021
spending has the potential to shatter previous records, as the National
Retail Federation today forecast that holiday sales during November and
December will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to
between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. The numbers, which exclude
automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compare with a
previous high of 8.2 percent in 2020 to $777.3 billion and an average
increase of 4.4 percent over the past five years.
“There is considerable momentum heading into the holiday shopping
season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers are in a
very favorable position going into the last few months of the year as
income is rising and household balance sheets have never been stronger.
Retailers are making significant investments in their supply chains and
spending heavily to ensure they have products on their shelves to meet
this time of exceptional consumer demand.”
NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in
the total, will increase between 11 percent and 15 percent to a total of
between $218.3 billion and $226.2 billion driven by online purchases. In
comparison, that number is up from $196.7 billion in 2020.
Last year saw extraordinary growth in digital channels as consumers
turned to online shopping to meet their holiday needs during the
pandemic. While ecommerce will remain important, households are also
expected to shift back to in-store shopping and a more traditional
holiday shopping experience.
“The outlook for the holiday season looks very bright,” NRF Chief
Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The unusual and beneficial position we
find ourselves in is that households have increased spending vigorously
throughout most of 2021 and remain with plenty of holiday purchasing
“Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions have caused shortages of
merchandise and most of this year’s inflationary pressure,” Kleinhenz
said. “With the prospect of consumers seeking to shop early, inventories
may be pulled down sooner and shortages may develop in the later weeks
of the shopping season. However, if retailers can keep merchandise on
the shelves and merchandise arrives before Christmas, it could be a
stellar holiday sales season.”
While it appears new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are down,
a variant surge could potentially sidetrack the current trajectory of
spending. Kleinhenz said strong household fundamentals provide optimism
amid the uncertainty. Income is growing from wage compensation, and
household wealth has reached another record high. These together support
strong spending this holiday season.
NRF expects retailers will hire between 500,000 and 665,000 seasonal
workers. That compares with 486,000 seasonal hires in 2020. Some of this
hiring may have been pulled into October as many retailers encouraged
households to shop early to avoid a lack of inventory and shipping
delays. With the earlier start retailers have announced thousands of
open positions in bricks-and-mortar stores and warehouse and
traditionally factors into holiday sales, and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration is predicting a high likelihood of a La Niña
pattern of cooler and wetter weather in the north and warmer and drier
weather in the south. This climate phenomenon has in the past correlated
with stronger retail sales and could be a factor in 2021.
NRF's holiday forecast is based on economic modeling that considers a
variety of indicators including employment, wages, consumer confidence,
disposable income, consumer credit, previous retail sales and weather.
NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31.
The methodology used to calculate holiday retail employment in 2020 was
changed to accommodate the sizeable impact of COVID-19 on overall
industry employment. In 2021, NRF returned to a traditional employment