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October 25, 2021
NRF: Consumers Ready for Holiday Spending But Worry About Availability
Posted In: Retail Articles
NRF Upgrades 2021 Retail Forecast After Strong First Half


According to a study from National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers have plans to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families during this year’s holiday season.

Despite the continued supply chain disruption, the figure is similar to consumer spending in the 2020 holidays. Consumer plans for holiday spending remain slightly lower than at the pre-pandemic 2019 high of $1,047.83, but the drop mainly concerns non-gift purchases. In the survey, 47% of holiday shoppers said they plan to take advantage of sales or price discounts to make non-gift purchases, with plans to spend an average of $118.41 on such items. In 2019, 60% planned to make these types of purchases and expected to spend $162.02.

The study determined that 90% of U.S. adults plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa versus 87% in the season last year. Consumers are prioritizing gifts for family and friends, and purchases related to holiday celebrations including food or décor. Consumers plan to check items off their gift lists earlier than ever, NRF pointed out, with 49% of declared holiday shoppers intending to browse and buy before November, up from 42% in 2020 and the highest in the history of the annual survey underlying the study, which was conducted October 1 to 10. Among those shopping in October or earlier, 47% said they wanted to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and another 36% said they did not want to miss out on key holiday items.

Consumers are aware of the supply chain challenges affecting retail, NRF maintained, and 47% of holiday shoppers said they worry about having difficulty finding desired items this year. In general, consumers are most concerned about finding the electronics, at 44%, clothing, at 40%, and toys, at 28%, on their shopping lists. In another pandemic-related development, consumers are less likely to purchase gifts for colleagues as many continue to work from home. 

Consumers continue to state a strong affinity for online shopping, as 57% plan to purchase holiday items online this year. Yet, the proportion is down from 60% who identified online as a holiday destination in 2020 and is in line with pre-pandemic norms, NRF pointed out.  

Other top holiday shopping destinations include department stores, at 47%, discount stores at 44%, grocery stores, at 43%, and clothing/accessories stores, at 30%. Just under a quarter of survey respondents said they plan to shop at a local or small business.  

“Every year retailers plan their seasonal inventory, staffing and product promotions well in advance for the busy holiday season,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay in announcing the study results. “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.”

Prosper evp/strategy Phil Rist added. “Over the last few years, consumers have demonstrated the desire to begin their holiday shopping earlier and earlier. 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.”

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