Holiday Shopping Numbers Fall Short of NRF Forecast

holiday shopping

The National Retail Federation says 2022 holiday sales grew 5.3%, missing an earlier forecast.

That was due to ongoing inflation and steep interest rates, the federation said in a news release Wednesday (Jan. 18), while announcing that sales for the year met the group’s expectations.

“The pace of spending was choppy, and consumers may have pulled back more than we had hoped, but these numbers show that they navigated a challenging, inflation-driven environment reasonably well,” National Retail Federation (NRF) Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the release.

“The bottom line is that consumers are still engaged and shopping despite everything happening around them.”

Retail sales for the holiday season — which the NRF defines as Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 — reached $936 billion, said the group, which noted that its holiday total was not adjusted for inflation.

Sales for the year rose 7% compared to 2021 to $4.9 trillion, in line with the NRF’s forecast of 6% to 8% growth for the year. In November, the NRF projected holiday retail sales would grow by the same amount.

The NRF’s latest numbers show holiday sales rising in all categories except two: furniture and home furnishing stores, which were down 1.1%, and electronics, and electronics and appliance retailers, down 5.7%.

That’s in keeping with a holiday shopping report last month from Mastercard that showed sales of crucial Christmastime standbys like jewelry and electronics falling by more than 5%.

It also lines with PYMNTS research showing consumers cutting back on spending for non-essential goods in favor of core categories like food and fuel.

But even that spending seems to have fallen short of expectations, according to sales data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that grocers did not get an anticipated holiday season boost.

The Bureau’s advanced monthly sales report, released Wednesday, showed that grocery store sales increased by just 0.1% between November and December. It’s an almost negligible rise and marks a major departure from the surge that would be expected from consumers’ self-reports about their holiday season spending.

And considering that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that grocery prices increased 0.3% during that time, it seems that, if anything, shoppers actually bought fewer groceries than last year.

In November, PYMNTS predicted a robust holiday season for grocers as consumers cut back on spending on discretionary categories in favor of necessities.

Data from the study “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report: Holiday Shopping Edition,” found that few consumers expected to cut down on grocery spending compared to the previous year, while a substantially larger share expected to increase.

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