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Friday, January 14, 2022

2021 holiday sales outperform NRF forecast

On Jan. 14, 2022, the National Retail Federation released the numbers that retailers and service providers have been waiting for, placing 2021 holiday sales in the record books with sales volumes of $886.7 in the November through December period, a 14.1 percent increase over 2020. The 2021 growth compares with an average 4.4 percent holiday sales growth over the previous five years.

In October 2021, the NRF had predicted holiday sales would increase between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion; it then amended the forecast in December to an 11.5 percent increase. The final tally showed both spending and growth rate outperformed the NRF forecast by topping previous records of $777.3 billion and 8.2 percent growth in 2020. These metrics are a testament to consumer willpower and retailer ingenuity, stated NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay.

"Despite supply chain problems, rising inflation, labor shortages and the omicron variant, retailers delivered a positive holiday experience to pandemic-fatigued consumers and their families," Shay said. "Consumers were backed by strong wages and record savings and began their shopping earlier this year than ever before."

Strong economic indicators

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz observed solid momentum in retail sales throughout the holiday season. "Worries about inflation and COVID-19 put pressure on consumer attitudes but did not dampen spending, and sales were remarkably strong," he said. "Even though many consumers began shopping in October, this was the strongest November and December we've ever seen."

Kleinhenz commended retailers for ordering ahead and keeping shelves stocked, stating these efforts and contingency planning enabled consumers to fill their carts in-store and online. Consumer demand is driving the economy, he stated, adding that the NRF expects the trend to continue in 2022 while retailers continue to prepare for the coming months amid ongoing uncertainties.

Noting that the NRF measured sales during November and December, excluding auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants, Kleinhenz pointed out that online spending met the NRF's forecast, which called for growth of between 11 percent and 15 percent—to between $218.3 billion and $226.2 billion. As of December, sales were up 13 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average, he added.

Year-over-year retail growth

November through December holiday sales saw year-over-year gains across the board and were led by increases at clothing, sporting goods and general merchandise stores. Specifics from key sectors for the two months combined, all on an unadjusted year-over-year basis, include:

  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 33.1 percent.

  • Sporting goods stores, up 20.9 percent.

  • General merchandise stores, up 15.2 percent.

  • Furniture and home furnishings stores, up 15 percent.

  • Electronics and appliance stores, up 13.8 percent.

  • Building materials and garden supply stores, up 13.5 percent.

  • Online and other non-store sales, up 11.3 percent.

  • Health and personal care stores, up 9.6 percent.

  • Grocery and beverage stores, up 8.6 percent.

NRF representatives stated results are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which found overall retail sales in December—including autos, gas and restaurants and seasonally adjusted—were down 1.9 percent from November but up 16.9 percent year-over-year.

That compares with increases of 0.2 percent month-over-month and 18.2 percent year-over-year in November, as sales have grown year-over-year since June 2020, despite occasional month-over-month declines, according to Census data. Representatives also said the NRF expects to see more growth in 2022 and will continue to focus on pandemic-related challenges to retailers, such as supply chain, labor force issues and persistent inflation. end of article

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