Retail Forecasts Signal Strong Growth for Upcoming 2021 Holiday Season

By Nick Rigitano
NSGA Director of Insights and Analysis

With the holiday season quickly approaching, the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) has been keeping note of the holiday sales growth forecasts released by multiple organizations. The overall sentiment from the retail holiday forecasts is strong growth expected for the upcoming season with the largest gains being driven by the e-commerce channel.

According to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast, holiday retail sales (November 2021 to January 2022) are likely to increase between 7-9 percent compared to last year. Last year’s holiday sales came in higher than expected, growing by 5.8 percent. The 2021 forecast projects a strong growth rate amid already elevated retail sales and growth in disposable personal income that is likely to remain flat heading into the season. However, the Delta variant of COVID and ongoing uncertainty spurred by the pandemic may drive more spending on goods. E-commerce is expected to play a big role again this holiday season and is forecasted to grow between 11-15 percent.

Mastercard is anticipating US retail sales to grow 7.4 percent this holiday season (November 1 to December 24), according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types. In-store sales are expected to see a rebound, rising 6.6 percent compared to 2020.

In addition, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is predicting an 8.9 percent year-over-year growth in retail sales this holiday season (November and December). The ICSC also noted that 85 percent of US adults plan to shop in a physical store during the holiday season. ICSC anticipates the shopping season will be longer this year, with 75 percent of respondents expecting to start earlier than they normally would as they look to take advantage of product availability, early sales and on-time delivered products.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently announced its prediction that expected sales in November and December to increase between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent vs. last year, the highest predicted retail sales forecast on record. This year’s forecast is comparable to last year’s previous high of 8.2 percent in 2020 and an average holiday sales increase of 4.4 percent over the previous five years. NRF expects retailers will hire between 500,000 and 665,000 seasonal workers. That compares with 486,000 seasonal hires in 2020. Some of this hiring may have been pulled into October as many retailers encouraged households to shop early to avoid a lack of inventory and shipping delays. With the earlier start, retailers have announced thousands of open positions in brick-and-mortar stores and warehouse and distribution centers.

The holiday outlook appears to be positive for Canadian retailers as well. According to the Retail Council of Canada’s 4th annual Holiday Shopping Survey, Canadians are likely to spend $792 on average this holiday season, up from $693 during the previous holiday season (2020). The increase is largely driven by significant drops in the negative financial impacts of the pandemic and people are planning more get-togethers this season. Supporting local retailers continues to be important to Canadians as well with 78 percent believing it is important to shop locally.

For tips and best practices in preparing your store for the holidays, be sure to check out NSGA’s Guide to a Better Retailing Experience. This guide can help store owners enhance the retail experience at their stores and includes ideas and suggestions for each aspect of a retail store, including the storefront, cash wrap, floor and wall fixtures, graphics, floors, lighting, fitting rooms and casual seating areas. The guide is free to NSGA members and is one of the most downloaded reports offered by NSGA.

NSGA members can download a copy of the report by visiting https://www.nsga.org/membership/retail-audit-insights/.