By all accounts it was a strong holiday season. Retail sales over November and December grew by 5.5% to $691.1 billion last year, above the forecasted growth rate of 3.6-4%, reports the NRF, which also noted that this was the largest annual increase since the 5.2% rate posted after the recession in 2010.

Non-store holiday sales (including e-commerce) grew by 11.5%, on the lower end of the 11-15% rate that had been forecast.

The NRF release reveals that all retail categories enjoyed increases save for Sporting Goods stores, which saw a slight unadjusted decline of 0.5%.

Some key store categories seeing growth included Electronics and Appliance stores (+6.7%), Furniture and Home Furnishings stores (+7.5%) and Clothing and Accessories stores (+2.7%).

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


Mastercard data also revealed a strong holiday season: SpendingPulse reported a 4.9% increase in holiday sales, marking a new peak for dollars spent and the largest year-over-year growth rate since 2011.

Mastercard’s data indicated a much healthier increase in online shopping, up 18.1% year-over-year for the holiday period, defined in this case as November 1 through December 24. The SpendingPulse figures also show a strong season for Electronics and Appliances (the 7.5% increase being the highest in the past 10 years) as well as for Home Furniture and Furnishings and Home Improvement. While gains were more modest for Specialty Apparel and Department Stores, this was a healthy result given store closures.

First Data

First Data – whose analysis is based on aggregated merchant processing data and includes only card-based forms of payment – reported a 5.4% increase in retail sales over the holiday season, up from a 3.6% increase in 2016. First Data notes that e-commerce accounted for 29% of transactions (up from 26%) and also the highest share of holiday retail spending to-date. Once again, Electronics and Appliances, along with Building Materials, stood out as top growth areas.

Adobe Digital Insights

Shoppers in the US spent more than $108 billion online during the 2017 holiday period, reports Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), representing a 14.7% hike from 2016, and outperforming ADI’s prediction of $107.4 billion.

Mobile devices played an impressive role in that spending: not only did smartphones and tablets combine for a majority (52%) of traffic to retail websites, but they also accounted for a new peak of one-third (33.1%) of all online holiday revenue.

Cyber Monday ($6.6 billion) and Black Friday ($5.0 billion) were the leading e-commerce days, each up by just under 17% year-over-year. But it proved to be Thanksgiving Day that again was the fastest-growing, with online spending up by 18.3% to $2.9 billion. The 5-day Cyber Week period overall enjoyed a 15.2% jump in retail e-commerce revenues.

Interestingly, search drove almost 45% of holiday retail site visits, though its impact was slightly smaller during the 5-day Cyber Week period (42.8%). Email, though, had a larger influence during Cyber Week (23.2% of visits) than the overall holiday period (20%).


Watch out: there’s a Cyber Week II, says Criteo [download page]. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Criteo observed a large increase in shoppers returning to the market, partly as a result of gift cards. In fact, average order values for retailers in Criteo’s network were generally higher during that week than during any other week in December.


Meanwhile, data from NetElixir found a 13% increase in e-commerce sales growth from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve. The results indicate that e-commerce growth was particularly large in the Southern region, at almost twice the national average (24.3%).

NetElixir’s data also revealed that mobile’s share of visits and sales increased across almost all product categories, and that paid search KPIs such as impressions, conversions and average order values also climbed.

Amazon / Hitwise

Of course, no discussion of retail is complete without a mention of Amazon, which reported that it was a record holiday season for its devices. The Echo Dot was the top-selling product (as reported in our weekly top Amazon searches and product pages table – available to newsletter subscribers only) and was the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category on Amazon. Many more stats are available here.

Separately, Hitwise noted that [download page] Amazon was easily the leading online retailer during Cyber Week. Among the top 50 US retailers, it captured an estimated 45.1% of transactions on Thanksgiving Day, 54.9% of transactions on Black Friday, and 59.6% of transactions on Cyber Monday.


The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says – based on a post-holiday survey – that respondents spent far more per-person than in last year’s survey ($841.50 and $711, respectively).

Nine in 10 holiday shoppers spent at physical stores, steady from last year, per ICSC’s survey. Some 40% used click-and-collect, and 46% ordered online from retailers with a physical presence and had the items shipped home. Some 62% ordered from pure-play retailers.

Previously Published: Cyber Week Recap

With Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday behind us, shopping results are coming out from several sources. Although the precise figures differ from one source to the next, it appears that once again the key takeaways include a new record for e-commerce spending on Cyber Monday and yet more gains in mobile commerce.

The following recap summarizes the main points from several research sources, with links provided for readers who would like to explore the data in more detail. (Note that there is a considerable amount of data not covered below, so we encourage you to follow the links to see what each source has to offer.)

Mobile and Desktop Commerce

  • In its recap, Adobe Digital Insights projected Cyber Monday to be the largest online sales day in history, with $6.59 billion spent by the end of the day, up 16.8% year-over-year as of 10PM. Of the total spending online on Cyber Monday, mobile devices accounted for 33.1% share, with one-quarter (24.1%) of sales coming from smartphones and less than one-tenth (9%) from tablets. While mobile conversions were up 12% from Cyber Monday 2016, mobile devices still had a much higher share of visits (47.4%) than revenue.
  • As for Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday), Adobe Digital Insights reports a 14.4% increase in e-commerce sales. E-commerce grew most quickly on Thanksgiving Day, up 18.3% year-over-year to reach $2.87 billion. For tis part, Black Friday exceeded $5 billion in e-commerce sales after a 16.9% increase.
  • Average order values (AOVs) online were higher on Thanksgiving Day ($154.15) than on Black Friday ($142.86), and conversion rates were also higher on the former (3.2%) than the latter (3.1%), according to Monetate data. Monetate also points out that while desktops sported the highest average order values on Thanksgiving ($173.92), conversion rates on desktops were down by 3% on Thanksgiving and by a more precipitous 24% on Black Friday.
  • Data from the Criteo Sponsored Products retail network [download page] supports Monetate’s results regarding cart sizes being higher on Thanksgiving Day than on Black Friday and desktops having the highest AOV (on Cyber Monday). Criteo’s finding that shopping peaked from 9-10PM on Cyber Monday also aligns with Adobe’s analysis, which revealed that the 8-11PM window would bring in more online revenue than the typical 24-hour day. Based on aggregate data from its retailer network, which includes Walmart, Target, Best Buy and others, Criteo also says that the number of shoppers was up by 9.9% on Cyber Monday, while the number of purchasers grew by 22%. Although one-third of purchasing was done on a smartphone on Cyber Monday, that figure was impressively higher on Thanksgiving Day (44% share), almost matching the amount of purchasing done on computers (45%).
  • Mobile orders actually outdid desktop orders on a global basis on Black Friday, per Salesforce data. In analyzing the activities of hundreds of millions of global shoppers across more than 30 countries, Salesforce reveals that this was the first Black Friday in which personal computers accounted for less than half (49%) of all orders. Salesforce’s data indicates that on a global basis, Black Friday was actually a busier shopping day than Cyber Monday, with e-commerce growth twice as high on the former (32%) than the latter (15%). Why might Black Friday have outperformed Cyber Monday on a global basis, unlike in the US? According to a One Hour Translation survey, Black Friday is a global phenomenon, whereas Cyber Monday is much more of a US sensation.
  • It wasn’t just mobile commerce seeing gains. Indeed, comScore data demonstrates that desktop e-commerce spending increased by a strong 22% year-over-year on Thanksgiving Day (up from a 17% gain last year) and by 20% on Black Friday. Desktop retail e-commerce spending exceeded $1 billion ($1.57 billion) on Thanksgiving Day for the fourth consecutive year, while exceeding $2 billion ($2.36 billion) on Black Friday for the first time. Apparel & Accessories was the top-ranked product category on Black Friday for desktop sales, followed by Consumer Electronics. As for Cyber Monday? Well, it was the single largest desktop retail e-commerce spending day in US history, per comScore’s data, with its $3.36 billion in desktop-based sales up a sizable 26% from last year and marking the first ever $3 billion desktop e-commerce day. Apparel & Accessories was also the top desktop e-commerce product category on Cyber Monday, with close to $900 million in desktop sales. In other news, affluents (those from households with at least $100k in annual income) accounted for 44% of spending on Cyber Monday, down from 48% last year.
  • Cyber Monday was Amazon’s best day, according to Hitwise. The e-commerce giant accounted for a spectacular 59.6% of the online transactions processed by the top 50 retailers, compared to 54.9% share on Black Friday and 45.1% on Thanksgiving Day. L.L.Bean was tops for conversion rates on Cyber Monday, though, with 1 in every 10 visits resulting in a purchase. (The corresponding percentage on Amazon was 8.4%… not too shabby.) Amazon reports that its own branded items were top-sellers on Cyber Monday, and Hitwise’s data agrees, with the Fire TV Stick and the Echo Dot (Black) emerging as the top products sold on Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day. (You can see the top 10 search terms and product pages on Amazon each week by signing up to MarketingCharts’ newsletter.) Amazon itself reported that Cyber Monday was its single biggest day ever, topping Prime Day.

In-Store Shopping

  • Basing its observations on credit and debit card transactions rather than survey research, First Data reports that overall retail spending was up by 11.9% year-over-year on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined, an increase from last year’s 7.8% gain. Brick-and-mortar share of spending fell on those days, from 75% of combined total spending last year to 71% this year.
  • Shopper visits to physical stores were fairly flat on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, down only a combined 1.6% from the same days last year (after a 1% decline last year). Black Friday visits were steady from last year, down by less than 1%, and appeared not to have been cannibalized by shopping on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps due to fewer store openings that day. More from ShopperTrak here.
  • Fewer American adults shopped exclusively in-store (an estimated 51.6 million) than exclusively online (an estimated 58.4 million) over the Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Monday), reports the NRF in analyzing survey results. The estimated 64.6 million who shopped both in-store and online averaged $82 more spending than the online-only shopper, and $49 more than the store-only shopper. Per-person spending averaged $335.47 over the weekend, with older Millennials (25-34) being the biggest spenders ($419.52 apiece). Black Friday was the most popular day for in-store shopping, followed by Small Business Saturday, while Cyber Monday was the top day for shopping online, followed by Black Friday.
  • For its part, the International Council of Shopping Centers – by way of its own survey – says that almost half (48%) of US adults visited a shopping center on Thanksgiving Day and/or Black Friday, with 74% of these shoppers spending the same or more this year than last. The survey results suggest that 76% of all spending was captured by retailers with a store presence, down from 80% last year.
  • As for Small Business Saturday, an estimated 108 million consumers said they shopped at small businesses that day, though that’s down from the reported figure last year of 112 million, per data from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express. Overall, some 43% of American adults either shopped or dined small on Small Business Saturday, per the study’s results, including 35% who did so online.

Other Highlights

  • Salesforce’s data demonstrates the power of personalization: the 6% of shoppers who engaged with product recommendations on Black Friday accounted for a far outsized 32% of all digital revenues that day. And on Cyber Monday, the 5% of shoppers engaging with product recommendations accounted for 26% of digital revenues.
  • Search was the channel driving the largest share of e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday, per Adobe Digital Insights, fueling 41.7% of online sales, led by paid search (22.9%) and closely followed by organic search (18.8%). By comparison, direct traffic was responsible for one-quarter (24.8%) of online sales and email for another quarter (24.9%).
  • TVs emerged as the top tech purchase during Black Friday week (Thursday through Monday), according to survey results from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), ahead of headphones and laptops. The survey also found that more people shopped during the week using smartphones (41%) than desktops (38%) and laptops (34%).
  • A study from DialogTech indicates that businesses received 58% more inbound phone calls on Cyber Monday than they do on a typical day during the rest of the year. Interestingly, while callers on Black Friday appear to have a more negative sentiment than on average, they demonstrate an above-average likelihood to have a positive sentiment on Cyber Monday.

Pre-Thanksgiving Research

Some 69% of American adults are planning to – or considering – shopping online or in-store this Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Monday), according to the latest holiday survey from the NRF. That equates to a potential 164 million shoppers, a huge increase from 137.4 million last year (or 59% of adults) that owes largely to the inclusion of Cyber Monday in this year’s survey.

For its part, Nielsen believes that consumers will be more active on Thanksgiving weekend this year than last, but Market Track sees a decline in shopping activity this Thanksgiving weekend, as does Accenture.

The most enthusiasm for Thanksgiving weekend in the NRF survey is reserved for Black Friday: 70% of those who plan to shop on Thanksgiving weekend said they either will or might shop that day. That compares to slightly fewer than half (48%) who might shop on Cyber Monday. Separately, though, a Euclid survey suggests that shoppers are more “excited” about Cyber Monday than Black Friday.

Staying home on Black Friday? App Annie predicts that it will be the biggest mobile shopping day ever in the US.

Key Shopping Days & Stats

Adults planning to shop on Thanksgiving weekend are more than twice as likely to say they’ll likely shop on Small Business Saturday (43%) than on Thanksgiving Day (19%), per the NRF’s results.

Among those not planning to shop on Thanksgiving weekend, slightly more than one-quarter would be persuaded to change their minds by a good sale or discount on an item.

Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) predicts that Thanksgiving weekend will account for almost $20 billion in online sales, or close to one-fifth (18%) of all holiday season online spending. E-commerce spending is projected to be higher on Cyber Monday (+16.5% to $6.6 billion) than on Black Friday (+16.4% to $5 billion). But wait! Salesforce predicts that Black Friday will be the busiest digital shopping day in US history. Only time will tell…

Perhaps lost in the mix? The Sunday preceding Cyber Monday, a day when Valassis says most Cyber Monday shoppers will be researching and comparing products and prices.

For it part, Deloitte says that three-quarters of Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, with “strong turnout all weekend.” Shoppers will be more likely to shop online (28%) than in-store (25%) on Thanksgiving Day, but twice as likely to shop in-store (52%) than online (24%) on Small Business Saturday.

Brands will be getting a jump on preparations: the majority began holiday planning before September, per BigCommerce. And web publishers will be getting in on the act: Skimlinks says that online traffic across its network of publishers soars 3 times higher on Black Friday than during the holiday period overall, leading to a 32% increase in clicks on commerce content that day.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has released new survey results suggesting that 60% of the holiday gift budget during Thanksgiving weekend will be spent on tech products, with video game consoles, smartphones and TVs proving particularly popular. The CTA also believes that more Americans will shop (across channels) on Cyber Monday (51%) than on Black Friday (38%).

Another way in which Cyber Monday might outdo Black Friday? Email conversions. In its holiday report [download page], Yes Lifecycle Marketing reveals that last year, Cyber Monday-themed emails converted at a 53% higher rate than Black Friday-themed emails.

Finally, the ICSC finds that Millennials are the most likely age bracket to be found shopping on Black Friday (57%). A survey from likewise indicates that Cyber Monday is more popular among younger than older consumers.

Previously-Published Research

The holiday season is in full swing, which means (among many other things) that dozens of studies are being issued forecasting spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. This article (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research for what appears to be an enthusiastic season in terms of consumer spending.

[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, loosely lumped together by category. Readers interested in more data are encouraged to follow the links provided to access the studies.]

Before getting to the list of highlights from the body of research that’s been released to-date, let’s a look at the broad forecast for this holiday season.

  • The NRF is projecting a 3.6-4% increase in holiday sales this year to roughly $679-$682 billion. The forecasted growth rate is higher than the 5-year average of 3.5%.
  • The NRF’s forecast increase sits below the gain expected by Deloitte, a 4-4.5% increase. That’s up from a predicted 3.6-4% rise last year, and includes an impressive 18-21% growth in e-commerce sales.
  • Kantar Media is predicting a topline retail sales increase of 3.7% during Q4, up from the 2.9% growth posted during Q4 of 2016 and including a 15.5% surge for e-commerce.
  • Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) is out with a similar projection, that retail growth during the holidays will be 3.8% overall. While ADI sees online holiday sales up a relatively modest 13.8%, it expects that e-commerce sales will top $100 billion ($107.4 billion) for the first time.
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) agrees with ADI, expecting a 3.8% rise in holiday sales, above last year’s forecast increase of 3.3%.
  • eMarketer is a bit more tempered in its projections, predicting a 3.1% increase in retail holiday season sales, including a 16.6% gain for e-commerce sales (both down slightly from last year’s forecasts).
  • RetailNext doesn’t have the gloomiest forecast this year as it has in years past, instead sharing the same sentiment as ADI and Kantar Media, of a 3.8% lift in sales.
  • Finally, Forrester might have the most modest forecast for online holiday sales in the US, expecting a 12% increase from last year.

Gallup sums up the general sentiment perhaps the most succinctly: “Americans in Best Holiday Shopping Mood in Years.”

The following list highlights key points from the studies cited above, along with several others. We’re generally disregarding data regarding top gifts and shopping times, as the surveys disagree widely with respect to these. (You can follow the links 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.

One such prediction worth pointing out comes from Deloitte, which on the basis of its consumer survey believes that a majority of holiday budgets will be spent online (51%) rather than in-store (42%) or via other means. That majority spent online should be even greater among Millennials (58%) and Gen Z consumers (61%), per the report. While most press outlets have breathlessly reported this data, it’s hard to imagine that a majority of holiday sales will come from e-commerce, given US Department of Commerce data [pdf] indicating that e-commerce sales accounted for 8.3% of total retail sales during Q4 2016 on an adjusted basis.

And while the NPD Group reveals that online shoppers plan to spend more than in-store shoppers, it’s hard to see how that will translate to a majority of holiday spending occurring online.

With that said, the NRF’s consumer survey (among others) does find for the first time that more consumers plan to shop online (59%) than in any offline destination this holiday season.

Moreover, mobile devices and e-commerce on a broad scale will again likely play a greater role in this holiday season than last.

Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.

  • Some 44% of consumers will be waiting for sales before buying larger or big-ticket items, per Deloitte. (Link)
  • The best day to shop for Christmas decor is November 22nd, says ADI. Thanksgiving will be the best day for computers, tools, sporting goods, video game consoles and apparel, while Black Friday will be best for bigger-ticket items such as appliances, tablets, TVs and jewelry. The best day for savings on toys? Cyber Monday. (Link)
  • As regards smartphone gifts, teens would prefer to receive an iPhone 8 or X than a Samsung Galaxy S8, per Ebates, while the opposite is true of adults. (Link) Hitwise is tracking the hottest trending products here.
  • Four in 10 shoppers will buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS), and the vast majority (81%) of those shoppers will make additional purchases when collecting their items, according to the ICSC. (Link)
  • Deloitte’s survey comes to an impressively similar conclusion about BOPIS as the ICSC survey: 43% will engage in this activity, per the report. The main reason given for doing so is to avoid shipping charges. (Link).
  • Meanwhile, almost 9 in 10 shoppers believe that free shipping is more important than fast shipping, which most consider to be 2 days or less. Deloitte’s survey also finds that almost three-quarters will take advantage of free shipping offers. (Link)
  • Interestingly, a TrustPilot study indicates that as review activity heats up during the holiday period, the share of negative reviews also rises to a peak. The main topics discussed in both positive and negative reviews? Customer service and delivery. (Link)
  • For the first time, more consumers plan to shop on smartphones (61%) than on laptops (54%) or desktops (46%) this holiday season, per the Consumer Technology Association. As for emerging tech? Almost 1 in 5 will use voice-activated smart speakers to shop online this month. (Link)
  • Three in 4 holiday shoppers will buy from Amazon this year, per Fung Global Retail & Tech, and that figure rises to 83% of those who expect to shop online and 90% of Amazon Prime members. Target (48.2%) and Walmart (47.6%) are the next-most popular retailers for holiday shopping. When choosing where to shop for gifts, consumers will consider quality of products (58%) first, closely followed by the lowest prices (57%) and store proximity (56%). (Link)
  • Proximity isn’t the only measure of convenience. In its research, Euclid found that almost half of 18-34-year-olds are more likely to visit a retailer if it has gift wrap, supplies and wrapping services. Likewise, close to half of men surveyed would be more inclined to visit a retailer if it has made gift-giving simpler with curated and personalized selections in-store. (Link)
  • For its part, CPC Strategy finds in a survey that overall price will be the most important reason to buy holiday gifts from a particular retailer. Interestingly, this year almost half will shop for gifts at specialty retailers known to cater to a particular demographic, such as and Anthropologie. (Link)
  • ThinkNow Research agrees that more consumers will shop at Amazon than at Walmart, but shows in its research that African-Americans prefer Walmart to Amazon. Separately, almost one-third (32%) of Hispanics plan to shop more this holiday season, with half of those saying it’s because they have more disposable income. (Link)
  • Some 7-10% of all iPhone orders will be made using Apple Pay this holiday season, according to Salesforce projections. In other predictions, the 8-10PM window will be the most popular online shopping time. (Link)
  • Instagram tops YouTube as the social network most influential in holiday shopping for Gen Z consumers (ages 13-16), per PwC. For consumers ages 17-35, social networks will be virtually as influential a source of product information as TV. (Link)
  • Speaking of shopping inspiration, almost 2 in 3 consumers responding to an Accenture survey feel that their shopping experience would be made easier if they could get ideas for gifts. Separately, Accenture is among several research sources predicting an increase in purchases on “experience” gifts. (Link)

Stay tuned for more research in the days and weeks to come.

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