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NRF Planned Holiday Spending Nov2021

It’s hard to believe but it’s that time again — the holiday season has begun. This means that an array of studies are being released, forecasting spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. The latest annual data hub (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research.

[Editor’s Note: as with last year’s holiday data hub, this year’s article will highlight one or two unique findings from each piece of research. Readers interested in more data are encouraged to follow the links provided to access the studies.]

Forecasts

Before getting to the list of research highlights, let’s have a look at the broad forecasts for this holiday season.

  • In its holiday spending forecast, NRF estimates that spending will grow by 8.5-10.5% over last year, reaching between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. A survey of more than 7,900 US consumers also reveals that consumers plan to spend roughly $998 on gifts ($648), holiday items ($231) and other non-gift items ($118). This is about on par with what they planned to spend during the holidays last year.
  • In a slightly more modest forecast, Deloitte projects that holiday sales will increase by 7-9% to roughly $1.28-$1.3 trillion. The increase, which includes projected e-commerce sales growth of between 11% to 15%, is well above the 1-1.5% growth forecast last year.
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a similar year-over-year increase in spending (8.9%). Once again, this is a notable increase over the very modest increase of 1.9% in sales ICSC estimated last year.
  • Factoring in low unemployment, rising wages and a thriving stock market, which have contributed to a strong consumer economy even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, eMarketer’s forecast for US holiday retail sales is at the high end compared to other forecasts on a total sales basis. With an estimated 9% growth, sales are expected to reach $1.1 trillion overall. eMarketer also estimates that e-commerce sales will rise by 14.4% and account for 18.4% of total retail sales. At the same time, in-store sales are expected to grow by 7.9%.
  • The consulting firm AlixPartners projects holiday spending growth of 10-13%, perhaps the most optimistic of all forecasts. Of note, its holiday period stretches from October through December.
  • Expecting slower than usual growth this year, NetElixir forecasts that e-commerce sales will climb by a relatively modest 6-7%. They believe that mobile shopping will be the primary e-commerce sales channel during the holiday period and account for more than half (52%) of total online sales.
  • For its part, Adobe predicts that e-commerce spending will grow by 10% y-o-y, to hit $207 billion — that’s less than a third of the growth projected for last year (33%), which was of course heavily influenced by COVID-19.

Other Key Holiday Data

The following list highlights key points from the studies cited above, along with others. We generally disregard data regarding top gifts and shopping times, as the surveys can disagree with respect to these. (You can follow the link to the research to find each one’s results on those.)

Likewise, we’ll largely avoid shopping destinations data for the same reason, unless there are noteworthy results to highlight.

Data from Deloitte contains a prediction worth noting. The survey of more than 4,000 shoppers found that while health and safety anxiety has decreased it hasn’t gone away completely. Some 40% of shoppers report being anxious, compared to 51% last year. Nevertheless, 62% of holiday spending is expected to happen online, compared to 33% that will be spent in-store (up from 28% in 2020. However, PwC reports a somewhat less pronounced gap between the share of spending being done online (57%) versus in-store (43%).

Here are some highlights from the myriad surveys and research pieces that have been released in recent weeks. Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.

  • Although Adobe Analytics reports that shopping via smartphones has plateaued, it predicts that online spending using smartphones during the holidays will reach an estimated $86 billion. (Link)
  • While cost remains the most important consideration when buying gifts this year, Bazaarvoice reveals that with growing concerns about global supply chain issues, availability (46%) is also a consideration. (Link)
  • A majority of US consumers belong to at least one traditional loyalty program. Salesforce predicts that the share of online orders redeeming loyalty points will increase strongly during the holiday season. (Link)
  • A study from Convey shows that close to 9 in 10 (88% of) consumers say that on-time delivery is important to the overall shopping experience. Additionally, more than half (56%) are more likely to complete a purchase if the estimated delivery date is visible in the shopping cart. (Link)
  • With the use of buy now, pay later programs growing over the past year, it stands to reason that consumers will be using this option during the holiday season. A Tinuiti survey finds that 14% of respondents will use buy now, pay later to purchase holiday gifts, half (51%) of whom are Millennials. (Link
  • Some 3 in 10 shoppers say they will start their shopping earlier this year than they did in 2020. Likewise, a survey of more than 1,000 consumers by RetailMeNot also found that two-thirds of shoppers say they prefer to complete all their holiday shopping as early as possible. (Link)
  • As for those consumers who tend to put their shopping off, a global survey by Oracle finds that more than half (55%) of consumers say they are likely to use or might use an on-demand service such as DoorDash to order last-minute gifts. (Link)
  • Data from Redpoint Global illustrates that personalization goes a long way. Some 8 in 10 consumers surveyed say they are more likely to shop with brands that demonstrate they personally understand them by sending relevant, personalized offers this holiday season. (Link)
  • Older shoppers are the least likely age group to shop during the holiday season. A global survey from MiQ found that fewer than half (47%) of adults ages 65+ planned to shop during the season compared to 72% of those ages 25-34. (Link)
  • A survey from Adtaxi finds that 7 in 10 consumers intend to shop at small businesses (down 4% over last year), while some will try to shop at socially conscious businesses (27%) and/or minority-owned businesses (26%). (Link)
  • Social media ads stand to play a role in holiday gift inspiration. Per Smartly.io, about half (52%) of consumers surveyed have found inspiration for a holiday gift from a social media ad, while more than two-fifths (42%) have purchased a gift directly from a social media ad. (Link)

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