US retail sales continued to grow in November, putting the 2021 holiday season on the home stretch for record spending despite inflation, supply chain disruptions and Covid-19, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.
“Despite economic headwinds, November retail sales data confirms that consumers continue to spend, as demonstrated by a 14% increase in sales year-over-year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We expect demand will remain strong through December, even though consumers started holiday shopping earlier than ever this year. Despite the rise of the omicron variant, increased vaccination rates combined with retailers’ ongoing safety protocols and procedures have resulted in consumers who feel they can continue to shop safely and conveniently. We believe that holiday sales this year could grow as much as 11.5% over 2020.”
“Consumers continued spending in November, building on momentum from strong early holiday shopping in October and setting the stage for a bright holiday season,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Consumers’ financial condition remains healthy and neither stubborn inflation nor Covid-19 appear to have derailed holiday spending despite both being top of mind. Recent labour market progress has helped propel incredibly strong demand, and most shoppers have the income and savings to absorb higher prices driven by the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. While seasonally adjusted numbers may make the results look modest, seasonal patterns have been significantly disrupted by the pandemic and unadjusted data shows November’s sales as calculated by NRF were actually the highest on record.”
Consumers have shopped earlier than ever this year, but NRF defines the holiday season as 1st November through 31st December, so the November results mark the completion of the first half of the official season. NRF currently expects that 2021 holiday sales during the two months could grow as much as 11.5% over 2020, exceeding NRF’s earlier forecast of between 8.5% and 10.5% growth. Even at the low end of the range, both the amount spent and the growth rate would set new records.
For the first 11 months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 14.2% over the same period in 2020. That is consistent with NRF’s forecast that retail sales for the full year should grow between 10.5 and 13.5% over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.