Retailers Anticipate Another Record-Breaking Holiday Sales Season

Joan McGuire
Muji's store in the Meier & Frank building in downtown Portland

National Retail Federation predicts 6% to 8% growth in holiday revenue sales

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Retailers can expect a holiday haul even bigger than the sector’s record-setting performance last year, according to a report released last week by the National Retail Federation.

In the press release published alongside the results, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said that while there is speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behavior, the data show that stores will still see “robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers taking advantage of value pricing.”

According to the report, which draws on survey data from  Prosper Insights & Analytics, an estimated 166.3 million people — or 69% of shoppers — are planning to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. The number of shoppers is almost 8 million more than last year, and is the highest estimate since the NRF began tracking this data in 2017.

The top reasons they gave for shopping Thanksgiving weekend were that deals are too good to pass up (59%), because of tradition (27%) or because it is something to do (22%) over the long weekend.

NRF also forecasts that this year’s holiday sales revenue will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021 to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. Last year’s holiday sales grew 13.5% over 2020 and totaled $889.3 billion, breaking the organization’s previous records.

“E-commerce was rocking and rolling through COVID-19, but people are excited to get back out to stores that are back to being open normal hours,” says Austin Cain, a vice president specializing in retail brokerage at CBRE, the commercial real estate services and investment firm.

According to Cain, customer numbers at restaurants and entertainment venues will mean more foot traffic around retail areas than 2020 and 2021, translating into larger crowds of customers.

That could present problems for retailers still struggling with the country’s ongoing staffing shortage, Cain notes.

“Staffing issues are going to mean longer lines, for sure,” he says.

Other potential dampers on the NRF’s optimistic forecast: supply chain issues that, for the past three years, have made it difficult for retailers to keep items in stock, and inflation that has left many consumers struggling to pay for necessities, let alone gifts.

Maria Lawson, co-owner of Luxe Gifts in Eugene, says that while supply chain issues have led to some stocking shortages, they haven’t been as impactful as last year. And while holiday traffic has been on the rise, the increase has been slower and more gradual this year.

According to an Innovating Commerce Serving Communities holiday survey released Oct. 17, 90% of respondents reported that inflation would affect their holiday spending.

Lawson says she hasn’t seen inflation deter any customers from buying.

“I wouldn’t say anyone is being priced out of anything. People are coming in and we’re seeing bigger purchases, larger amounts of things, Lawson says. “If one day it’s down traffic-wise, the next day it’ll be the opposite.”

Barbara Jenkins-Gibson, owner of Christmas Cottage in Lincoln City, says business at her year-round Christmas shop, which has been in operation since 1974, has rarely been higher. She had very little time for a phone interview with Oregon Business, as her store was slammed with customers two days before Thanksgiving.

“It’s incredibly busy here. We have had lines to the door all day,” says Jenkins-Gibson. “This is a pretty big time of year for a Christmas shop.”

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