According to the latest holiday spending statistics by the National Retail Federation (NRF), which defines the holiday spending period as the months of November and December, US holiday season sales have been growing at an average of 4.9% per year from 2011 to 2021.

In 2011, consumers spent $553.3 billion during the year-end shopping season. Since then, holiday retail sales have been steadily increasing. 

The largest of these annual growths came in 2021. At a 13.5% increase year-over-year, 2021’s holiday retail sales hit $889.30 billion, beating the previous high recorded in 2020 when holiday retail sales grew at an annual rate of 9.3%. 

It also came rather unexpectedly for a year that was plagued by challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, NRF analysts had previously predicted a growth of up to 11.5% to $859 billion. 

2021’s holiday retail sales growth came despite inflation, logistical disruptions, and the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have attributed the increase to strong wages and record savings from consumers, as well as some ingenuity from retailers.

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Sectors Driving 2021’s Holiday Retail Sales Growth

Of the retail sectors that contributed to 2021’s holiday season sales growth, the biggest increase came from clothing and clothing accessory stores. Their combined sales grew 33.1% from the previous year. Such growth in fashion-related merchandise was expected, considering that these products currently rank among the top online shopping categories

Other sectors driving the US’ holiday retail sales in 2021 include sporting goods stores, whose sales increased by 20.9%, and general merchandise stores, which increased by 15.2%. 

US holiday retail sales: 2022 forecast

Despite rising inflation and falling consumer confidence, experts are predicting further holiday retail sales growth for 2022. 

In fact, a recent report from NRF shows a growth forecast of between 6% and 8% in 2022, which would take the total holiday season sales to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. This number is even more significant when considering nearly half of all consumers said they planned on starting their holiday shopping before November.

A big part of this growth is expected to be driven by ecommerce and non-store sales, which experts say are set to grow by up to 12% this year to as much as $267.6 billion. This would be significantly higher than last year’s digital sales figures, which skyrocketed as buyers resorted to doing their holiday shopping online in light of pandemic restrictions.

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