Holiday Retail Sales Projected to Grow by 4.1% Y-O-Y

October 2, 2012

Holiday retail sales will grow 4.1% year-over-year to reach $586.1 billion, forecasts the National Retail Federation (NRF). That rate is down from actual growth in 2011 and 2010 (both at 5.6%), but is above the trailing 10-year average sales increase of 3.3%. The NRF estimate is slightly more aggressive than a recent projection from Deloitte, which predicted 3.5%-4% growth in holiday sales this year.

According to the NRF, this year’s growth will be fueled by a gain in consumer confidence. Indeed, according to Booz & Co. survey results [pdf] released in September, 53% of consumers plan to buy at least one luxury item this year, up from 41% last year.

The NRF study cites US Department of Commerce data showing that since 2000, holiday retail sales have accounted for roughly one-fifth of annual industry sales. [Tweet this] Holiday sales are defined as retail industry sales in the months of November and December.

Retail E-Commerce Sales to Grow More Rapidly

Online shopping is expected to see even more rapid growth this year. forecasts retail e-commerce sales to increase by 12% to $96 billion, or 16.4% of total holiday sales. A recent forecast from eMarketer is even more bullish on growth, projecting a 16.8% year-over-year increase in holiday retail e-commerce sales, with online holiday sales accounting for close to one-quarter of retail e-commerce sales for the year. It’s important to note that eMarketer and the NRF use different calculations for their projections, thereby reaching different conclusions on dollar spend. For example, while eMarketer forecasts more rapid growth in e-commerce sales during the holiday period, the company projects those sales to reach $54.5 billion, compared to the $96 billion forecast from

Survey results released in August by reveal that close to one-third of consumers will shop online this holiday season.

Deal-Seeking Behavior to be Prevalent

There are strong signals that consumers will be on the search for deals this holiday season. A PriceGrabber survey of online shopping consumers finds two-thirds believing that retailers will offer better prices and discounts this year, and that 88% will research their gift purchases in advance to find the best deals. The tactics most likely to influence these shoppers’ purchases? Free shipping (77%), price cuts (74%), coupons (55%), and blow-out sales (44%).

It’s not only online shoppers that will be on the lookout for deals, though. The Booz & Co. survey shows that 73% of consumers overall expect to find great deals this season, up from 62% last year.

Other Findings:

  • According to the Booz & Co. survey, 62% of consumers will be shopping for home entertainment items, but consumer electronics will not be as popular: 62% do not have consumer electronics items on the top of their personal wish lists. 42% expect to buy apparel gifts, up from 37% last year, while 45% plan to give at least one downloadable gift.
  • 4 in 10 respondents say that browsing in-store before buying online will be their shopping strategy.
  • Per the results, 39% of respondents will start their holiday shopping before November, with women far more likely to do so than men (46% vs. 31%).
  • 40% of respondents expect to be able to get most of what they need in the coming months, but not afford it all. By comparison, 36% are not worried about being able to buy everything they need.
  • According to PriceGrabber, 12% of respondents will spend more this year than last, up from 7% last year. Half will spend the same.

About the Data: NRF’s definition of retail industry sales include most traditional retail categories including non-store, auto parts and accessories stores, discounters, department stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants.

Holiday retail sales for the past several years have been updated based on revisions from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and NRF most recently revised how it calculates retail sales to now include non-store and auto parts and auto accessories stores.’s estimates are based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Reserve, U.S. Census, The Conference Board, and NRF calculations. These include personal income and spending, consumer credit, consumer confidence, and previous monthly retail reports.

eMarketer benchmarks its retail e-commerce sales figures against US Department of Commerce data, and excludes travel and event tickets.

The Booz & Co. data is based on a survey of a 1,600-person informal panel composed of regular consumers, store staff, and retail and consumer executives, as well as more than 150 interviews carried out in stores, malls, and airports during August-September 2012.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos and describes its methodology as follows: “These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted August 16-20, 2012. For the survey, a national sample of 1,005 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos’ US online panel were interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the US adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.

The PriceGrabber survey was conducted from August 31 to Sept. 12, 2012, and includes responses from 2,235 U.S. online shopping consumers.

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