NRF Sees Holiday Spending Down Slightly

·3 min read

Consumers won’t spend as much during the 2021 holiday season as they did in the pre-pandemic 2019 season.

They’ll spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families, compared to $1,047.83 in 2019, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

More from WWD

Despite the continued supply chain disruption, this is on par with consumer spending last year, the NRF said Thursday.

“Every year, retailers plan their seasonal inventory, staffing and product promotions well in advance for the busy holiday season,” said NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay. “Consumers are ready to celebrate, and gift-giving is high on the list. The retail industry is working diligently with ports, labor, shippers and transportation providers as well as government officials to overcome supply chain challenges and make sure consumers have access to the gifts they want to give and, just as important, receive.”

The survey, conducted Oct. 1 to 10, polled 7,921 consumers about holiday shopping plans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

It indicated that this year, 90 percent of U.S. adults plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, up from 87 percent last year.

As WWD reported this week, of the 18 categories tracked by the Adobe Digital Economy Index, apparel has the highest out-of-stock levels currently, followed by sporting goods, baby products and electronics. And compared to January 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak, the prevalence of out-of-stock messages to consumers has risen a “whopping” 172 percent going into the holiday season, according to Adobe.

Similarly, the annual Deloitte holiday survey, released Wednesday, found that three of four consumers are concerned about stockouts, motivating them to begin holiday shopping earlier this year.

The NRF/Prosper survey indicated that while 47 percent of holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of sales or price discounts during the holiday season to make non-gift purchases, they plan to spend an average of $118.41 on these items. In contrast, in 2019, 60 percent planned to make these types of purchases and expected to spend $162.02. As many continue to work from home, shoppers are also less inclined to purchase gifts for coworkers.

The holiday shopping is happening earlier, with 49 percent of holiday shoppers browsing and buying before November, up from 42 percent in 2020 and the highest in the survey’s history. Among those shopping in October or earlier, 47 percent said they wanted to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and another 36 percent do not want to miss out on key holiday items.

“Over the last few years, consumers have demonstrated the desire to begin their holiday shopping earlier and earlier,” said Phil Rise, Prosper’s executive vice president of strategy. “This year in particular, as retailers promote holiday inventory, they are taking advantage of additional offerings such as free shipping, buy online, pick up in store and even expedited shipping to ensure they receive their gifts on time.”

Due to supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages and COVID-19, consumers are worried they won’t be able to get the items they want due to stockouts or won’t receive their online orders in time for Christmas. According to the survey, 47 percent of holiday shoppers are concerned they will have difficulty finding items this year. The top items they are worried about finding are electronics (44 percent), clothes (40 percent) and toys (28 percent).

Fifty-seven percent plan to purchase holiday items online this year, down from 60 percent who identified online as a holiday destination in 2020 and in line with pre-pandemic norms.

Other top holiday shopping destinations include department stores (47 percent), discount stores (44 percent), grocery stores (43 percent) and clothing/accessories stores (30 percent). Twenty-four percent of consumers plan to shop specifically at a local or small business.

Sign up for WWD's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.