NRF Holiday Retail Sales 2002 2020 Jan2021Despite much lower predictions, data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) finds that retail sales, including online and other non-store sales, for the November through December 2020 holiday season grew by an impressive 8.3% over the same period in 2019, reaching $789.4 billion.

The NRF had predicted that holiday retail sales would only grow somewhere between 3.6-5.2%. Instead, the actual growth of 8.3% is more than double the average holiday sales increase (3.5%) seen over the past 5 years.

Online and other non-store sales accounted for $209 billion of total sales, a year-over-year increase of 23.9%, which is about on par with NRF’s forecast in late November.

Sales at building materials and garden supply stores saw the largest increase, growing 19% over 2019, while sporting goods store sales were up 15.2% year-over-year. However, electronic and appliance stores (-14.9%) and clothing and clothing accessory stores (-14.9%) reported double-digit decreases.

Here are some further highlights and results as reported by various sources.


Mastercard’s SpendingPulse data reveals considerably less growth in holiday sales than the NRF. Its data shows that in the period between November 1-December 24, total retail spending (excluding automotive and gas) increased by just 2.4% in 2020.

And, while online shopping had seen some increases over the past several years, e-commerce sales experienced an incredible gain of 47.2% during the traditional holiday season, per Mastercard’s report. SpendingPulse data also reveals that online shopping accounted for close to one-fifth (19.7%) of total retail sales during the period.

As far as shopping categories are concerned, the Electronics & Appliance category, which typically experiences higher-than-average sales growth during the holidays, saw a rise of 6% over 2019. However, the Furniture & Furnishings (+16.2%) and Home Improvements (+14.1%) categories grew the most year-over-year during the period – possibly due to people spending more time at home – while categories such as Luxury (-21.1%) and Apparel (-19.1%) saw steep declines in retail sales.

Adobe Digital Insights

Figures from Adobe Analytics,  which analyzed 1 trillion visits to US retail sites, finds that US online sales reached $188.2 billion during November and December, representing a year-over-year increase of 32.2%. The $188.2 billion total also exceeded the predicted online shopping total of $184 billion, with 25 of the 61 days featuring at least $3 billion in revenues.

Sales via smartphones accounted for almost two-fifths (39%) of e-commerce sales. Although conversion rates on smartphones trailed those of laptops and other devices, they reached a significant 3.31% on Cyber Monday.


Amazon reports yet another record-breaking holiday season. The e-commerce giant says it delivered more than 1.5 billion products worldwide during the holiday season, including toys, home products and electronics.

Some of the company’s best selling items for the season included its newly-released Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, as well as ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game, Lite-Brite Ultimate Classic Retro Toy and Nintendo Switch’s Just Dance 2021.

Amazon also reports that more than 8 million items were shipped to alternative delivery locations which include Amazon Hub lockers and their physical retail stores, Amazon 4-star and Amazon books.

Previously Published: Cyber Week Results Recap

Adobe Cyber Week E Commerce Sales Growth Rates Dec2020In a year where e-commerce has seen strong growth, Cyber Monday sales increased by 15.1% over last year to reach $10.8 billion. That’s according to data from Adobe, which found that between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday (but excluding Sunday), shoppers spent $29.7 billion from online retailers.

Adobe Analytics examined 80% of the online transactions at the largest 100 US online retailers and found that the largest share of online spending for the period took place on Cyber Monday. And, while Black Friday is traditionally set aside for in-store shopping, it appears that the pandemic caused shoppers to do more of their shopping online, with spending reaching $9 billion, a year-over-year (y-o-y) increase of 21.6%.

However, the biggest growth in online sales happened on the Saturday after Thanksgiving — Small Business Saturday. Shoppers spent 30.2% more online on that day than they did in 2019, for a total of $4.7 billion.

In between eating turkey and (potentially) spending time with family, consumers also found time to shop online on Thanksgiving Day, spending $5.1 billion, an increase of 21.5% y-o-y.

Here’s a look at the latest data from other sources concerning the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday:

  • While online sales saw a lift throughout Thanksgiving weekend, NRF reports that in-store shopping was down, dropping 55% on Thanksgiving Day and 37% on Black Friday. The survey of more than 6,600 adult consumers found that shoppers spent an average of $311.75 during the 5-day period, down from the $361.90 in 2019.
  • Further data from RetailNext shows that although in-store foot traffic and sales decreased for the period (48.4% and 29.6%, respectively), shopper yield — the spend per customer — increased by 36.3% over last year.
  • The pandemic has had a clear impact on online shopping, bringing new shoppers to e-commerce and online retailers. This can be seen in buyer data from Bluecore which found that first-time buyers made up 59% of online buyers across all analyzed retail categories on Black Friday, and 56% of total buyers on Cyber Monday.
  • Cyber Monday brought online retailers $42 billion in sales globally, an increase of 18% over last year, per data from Salesforce. An analysis of online shopping activity in the US for Cyber Monday shows that online orders grew by 18% y-o-y, with online order values averaging $109. Half of these orders were made via mobile.
  • Along those lines, an analysis of performance per device for Black Friday online sales by Nosto revealed that, although global shoppers tended to use their mobiles more often to visit online retailers (64%) than desktop (35%), desktop saw better conversion rates (5%) than mobile (2%), with online sales almost on par (53% for desktop vs. 47% for mobile).
  • The Food & Grocery category enjoyed impressive increases in online orders and revenue on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. NetElixir reports that orders in this shopping category grew by 137% over 2019, while revenue rose by more than 128% over the same two days last year.
  • On the other hand, despite the popularity of video games, SuperData (a Nielsen company) reports that spending on digital games for the 4-day period after Thanksgiving dropped 10% over last year, bringing in $3.9 billion globally. Spending on game consoles also fell by 13%, while PC games sales grew by 6% y-o-y.

More Highlights From Other Research

Here’s an update on more general data gathered since our last update. Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.

  • A survey of 2,000 US consumers from Valassis found that 2 in 5 (38%) intend to purposely do their holiday shopping at businesses that are either owned by a person of color or that promote diversity. Link
  • Six in 10 (62%) adults surveyed by Advantage Solutions say they will engage in Christmas celebrations this year (down from 85% in 2019). While those who plan to shop for Christmas food and supplies in a grocery store are fewer than in 2019 (77% vs. 84%), the share of those who plan to order food online for home delivery has doubled (25% vs. 12%). Link
  • Data from Morning Consult finds that more than half (55%) of US consumers anticipate spending less than $300 on holiday gifts this year (up from 46% in 2019). Seven in 10 (71%) also say they plan to purchase from their go-to brand or from brands they frequently buy from. Link
  • The Integer Group corroborates that downturn, reporting that consumers plan to spend less on gifts this year. In its survey, shoppers planned to spend an average of $200 less this year ($572) on gifts compared to 2019 ($773). Link
  • Nonetheless, 3 in 10 (31%) Gen Z and Millennials say they will spend more than they did last year, per a SurveyMonkey study. The study also found that one-third of respondents in these age groups intend to take advantage of holiday sales. Link
  • An August survey of 3,000 US adults from Aki Technologies highlights that differences in income are a factor in spending this year, with two-thirds of those making more than the US median income of $65K either spending more or the same during the holidays this year as they did last year, compared to 55% of those who make less than the median income. Link
  • The COVID-19 pandemic may have a lasting effect on holiday shopping behavior. A survey of 1,000 US consumers from 97th Floor reveals that more than two-thirds (68%) plan to do most of their holiday shopping online due to the pandemic, while half (52%) believe they will never shop in-person for the holidays again. Link
  • Unsurprisingly, Amazon is the e-commerce site where the largest share of consumers plan to shop (83%) this holiday season, followed by Walmart (51%) and Target (20%). This is per a survey from Feedvisor, which also found that 8 in 10 (81%) shoppers were more likely to buy a product if they were offered free shipping. Link
  • Mobile is expected to be an important shopping channel again this holiday season; App Annie reports that shoppers already spent more than 61 million hours shopping via mobile during the week of Prime Day 2020 in mid-October, as well as more than 51 million hours in the first week of November. Link

Previously Published Research

NRF Holiday Retail Sales Growth Nov2020After holding off on their projections for US holiday season retail sales, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has just released their forecast. This year, NRF projects that holiday sales in November and December will grow by 3.6-5.2% over last year to reach between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

Despite all the disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, this projected growth is actually slightly above the 5-year average of 3.5% and nearly on par with the 4% growth recorded during last year’s holiday season. It also comes on the back of what NRF identifies as a V-shaped recovery, with steady growth since June after the COVID-19 pandemic caused stores to shut down and stay-at-home orders were put in place. Indeed, in October, retail sales increased by 10.6% year-over-year. However, with the US gripped by surging caseloads once again and restrictions being once more put in place, NRF’s forecast may prove rosy.

Nonetheless, Q3 e-commerce sales grew by 36.7% over the same quarter last year. NRF expects consumers to continue to do much of their shopping online through the holidays, and estimates that online sales will increase by 20-30%, up to a range of $202.5 billion to $218.4 billion. This is up from the $168.7 billion in holiday season online sales last year.

Previously Published Research

NRF Planned Holiday Spending Nov2020

It’s that time again — the holiday season has started. This means that an array of studies are being released, forecasting spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. This latest annual data hub (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research for what is likely to be a season like no other, given the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

[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.]


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

  • Although the NRF is holding off on releasing its official outlook for the 2020 holiday season until they have “more solid data to make more reliable projections,” a recent survey of more than 7,600 US consumers reveals that consumers plan to spend more than $997 on gifts ($650), holiday items such as decorations ($230) and other non-gift items ($117). This is about 4.7% less than they planned to spend during the holidays last year.
  • In the meantime, Deloitte forecasts that holiday sales will increase by a modest 1-1.5% to roughly $1.1-$1.2 trillion. The increase, which includes projected e-commerce sales year-over-year (y-o-y) growth of between 25% to 35%, is below the 4.5-5.0% growth forecast last year.
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a similarly low year-over-year increase in spending (1.9%). Again, this is well below the increase of 4.9% in sales ICSC estimated last year.
  • Taking into account the COVID-19 induced recession, high unemployment and general economic uncertainty, eMarketer’s forecast for US holiday retail sales is even more modest than the others. Forecasting a rise of a mere 0.9% to about $1 trillion overall, eMarketer estimates e-commerce sales will increase 35.8% and account for 18.8% of total retail sales. At the same time, in-store sales are predicted to drop by 4.7%.
  • On the other hand, the consulting firm AlixPartners projects slightly more optimistic holiday spending growth of 1-2.6%, with its holiday period stretching from October through December.
  • NetElixir’s e-commerce forecast expects that online sales will represent a larger portion of total retail sales in Q4 than they did a year ago, forecasting that one-quarter of all retail sales will happen online (compared to 16% in Q4 2019).
  • For its part, Adobe predicts that e-commerce spending will grow 33% y-o-y, to hit $189 billion — more than double the growth projected for last year (14.1%). Adobe’s data also adds that online sales could possibly grow even more (47%) and reach $200 billion if people avoid shopping in stores.

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 disagree wildly 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 is one such prediction worth nothing. In a survey of holiday shoppers which found that 51% of shoppers are anxious about shopping in-store during the holiday season due to COVID-19, the results also suggest that nearly two-thirds (64%) of holiday budgets will be spent online this year compared to 28% which will be spent in-store (down from 36% in 2019). PwC reports a similar gap between the share of spending being done online (61%) versus in-store (39%).

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.

  • With more consumers turning to online shopping this holiday season, Adobe Analytics estimates that 42% of online shopping will be done via smartphone. This represents an increase of 55% and some $28 billion over last year. (Link)
  • Shopping via social media is also on the rise, especially among younger consumers. Bazaarvoice reveals that 6 in 10 (61%) businesses expect to see higher engagement and purchases through social media during the holidays. (Link)
  • The influx of online orders will also mean delivery services will be burdened with getting parcels to their destination on time. Salesforce projects that traditional delivery providers will exceed capacity by 5% worldwide between the week prior to Cyber Week and the day after Christmas. (Link)
  • Along those lines, Convey reports that more than half (58%) of consumers would be more likely to purchase from an online retailer that provided estimated delivery data in their shopping cart. (Link)
  • However, not all online orders will be sent out for delivery. Although shoppers are showing a tendency to not shop in-store, they are taking advantage of the growing trend of shopping online and picking up at the store. Tinuiti research found that this practice is set to increase by 20% over last year, with more than half (52%) of shoppers using in-store pickup during the holidays. (Link)
  • Anticipating inventory problems or shipping delays, 3 in 10 (31%) shoppers say they will start their shopping earlier this year. Likewise, the survey of more than 2,000 consumers by RetailMeNot also found that more than one-third (36%) of shoppers are planning to spread their purchases over a greater period. (Link)
  • Data from Redpoint Global illustrates that personalization goes a long way. Some 70% of consumers surveyed claim they will shop exclusively with brands that demonstrate they personally understand them this holiday season, with 49% saying they will be more likely to shop from retailers who send personalized content or offers during the season. (Link)
  • Older shoppers are more likely to avoid brick-and-mortar shops during the holidays due to COVID-19. MiQ reports that only 28% of shoppers ages 18-29 plan to avoid shops in general and 35% will avoid shopping centers or malls. In the meantime, 34% of shoppers representing each of the older age groups plan to avoid shops in general and a full 56% of shoppers older than 60 will be avoiding larger shopping areas like malls. (Link)
  • How a brand reacts during a crisis has been shown to affect customer loyalty. As such, Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey of more than 1,500 US consumers found that some 6 in 10 (57%) would be inspired to shop with a retailer that supported its staff and customers during the pandemic, while 4 in 10 (41%) won’t shop with retailers that have laid off staff or reduced benefits because of the pandemic. (Link)
  • The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) estimates that about 183 million US adults (81%) plan to purchase technology gifts this year. The CTA’s survey also found that the average spend on tech products during the season will be $528, with 38% planning to acquire a gaming console this holiday season. (Link)
  • A report from OpenX and The Harris Poll looking at the impact COVID-19 has had on consumers and marketers indicates that three-fifths (58%) of consumers expect to spend the same or more than recent years this holiday season. Surprisingly, almost half (46%) of consumers who have had their jobs impacted by COVID-19 also believe they will spend the same or more than they have in the past. (Link)
  • The pandemic may also have brought about new-found support for small business. A Constant Contact survey of 3,000 respondents found that 7 in 10 (71%) planned on buying from small businesses during the season, with 6 in 10 (62%) saying they plan to visit new small businesses they’ve never shopped at before the end of the year. (Link)

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