Surveys

Why the NRF Believes It’ll Be a Record-Setting Holiday Season

SurveysNov 01, 2021

Why the NRF Believes It’ll Be a Record-Setting Holiday Season

High household savings rates and progress in the fight against COVID should keep consumers spending.

The National Retail Federation forecasts holiday sales will grow 8.5-10.5 percent this year, totaling between $843 billion and $859 billion.
Washington, D.C.—The National Retail Federation has predicted U.S. retail sales could grow as much as 11 percent year-over-year this holiday season, potentially topping $850 billion and setting a new record. 
 
It’s a bullish but not surprising forecast given how retail—including fine jewelry—has been performing since May 2020, when the country first began to emerge from the initial COVID-19 lockdown. 
 
According to the NRF, retail sales have grown every month since May 2020 and ended the year up 7 percent over 2019. 
 
That momentum has continued in 2021, with retail sales up 14.5 percent through the first nine months of the year.  
 
On a conference call with reporters last week, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay and Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said government stimulus checks, more certainty about the handling of the pandemic, and progress in vaccinations (as of press time, the percentage of U.S. adults who are fully vaccinated was nearing 60 percent) have fueled retail sales in 2021. 
 
Government stimulus programs have helped households pay down debt and grow savings, giving them more disposable income, a stark contrast to the years leading into the Great Recession when U.S. savings hit an all-time low. 
 
Kleinhenz said falling COVID cases, the authorization of booster shots, and development of a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 also will have U.S. consumers feeling more mobile this holiday season. 
 
In addition, the U.S.’s ban on international travelers is set to lift Nov. 8, which should give an added “jolt” to retail sales of goods, Shay noted.

“We have a great deal of confidence consumers will continue to power this economy in the last quarter of the year,” Shay said. 
 
 Related stories will be right here … 
 
Both Kleinhenz and Shay said they don’t expect supply chain disruptions or inflation to put a damper on holiday spending. 
 
Shay said retailers “do have and will have” the inventory in place to meet consumer demand. And if retailers don’t have exactly what the customer wants, the customer will simply buy something else. 
 
Shoppers “won’t go home empty-handed,” this holiday season, he said, adding the pattern of holiday shopping beginning before the calendar even hits Nov. 1 is continuing this year.
 
One challenge Shay did mention, however, is the lack of employees returning to offices, which has been a challenge for small retailers in large urban areas who depend on worker foot traffic.  
When asked if spending on experiences—trips, dinners, excursions, etc.—will take away from spending on goods this holiday season, he said that remains to be seen.
 
“That was always the question last year and, to a certain extent, continues to be the question as consumers transition back to a more active life. Thus far, we haven’t seen it. In fact, I think many retailers have found ways to take advantage of consumers moving back into a more experience-oriented economy.”
 
The NRF’s 2021 holiday forecast calls for retail sales, excluding restaurants, auto, and gas, to increase 8.5-10.5 percent year-over-year in November and December, totaling between $843 billion and $859 billion. 
 
If realized, that would top the previous high of 8.2 percent growth and $777.3 billion in spending last year.

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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