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Holiday FAQs

Forecasts/Sales: Information, Calculations and Definitions

NRF Holiday Surveys Information

Retail Holiday Terms

Retail Operations Data

Online Sales Information


Forecasts/Sales: Information, Calculations and Definitions

What is NRF’s prediction for holiday growth this year?
NRF is projecting 2008 holiday sales to be 2.2% higher than 2007. If NRF’s 2.2% projection is correct, holiday sales this year would be $470.4 billion.

What percentage of annual sales do the holidays represent?
For many traditional retailers, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 25-40% of their annual sales. In 2007, holiday sales represented 19.1% of total retail industry sales (pg. 6). Jewelry stores have the most at stake; last year, holiday sales at jewelry stores represented 30.2% of stores’ annual sales (pg. 7).

How much did holiday sales increase last year?
In 2007, holiday sales grew 2.4% to $460.24 billion (pg. 6). On average, holiday sales have increased 4.4 percent per year for the last ten years.

What does NRF classify as the “winter holidays”?
NRF tallies total retail industry sales from November and December to determine holiday sales. Holidays during this period include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Last year, according to an NRF survey, 93% of consumers celebrated Christmas, five percent celebrated Hanukkah, and two percent celebrated Kwanzaa.

How many days will make up the holiday season this year?
NRF defines the winter holidays as retail industry sales from the full months of November and December, so the length of the holiday season is 55 days—the same as usual. That said, it may be common this year to hear people refer to 2008 as a “short” holiday season because the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the second-shortest possible. This year, there are 27 days in between Thanksgiving and Christmas (last year, there were 32).

How does NRF define “retail industry sales”?
Retail industry sales include most traditional retail sales categories such as discount stores, department stores, grocers, and specialty stores. Retail industry sales exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants. Online sales are tallied separately due to a lag in reporting by the Commerce Department.

Will NRF change its holiday forecast throughout the course of the holiday season?
While NRF reserves the right to change its forecast at any time, NRF rarely revises its forecast. In 2005, NRF raised its forecast mid-season when sales were better than expected and in 2001, NRF lowered its forecast. NRF has no plans to change its forecast for 2008.

NRF Holiday Surveys Information

How do NRF’s surveys differ from its forecast?

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using indicators like housing data, unemployment and previous monthly retail sales reports. NRF’s holiday surveys, conducted by BIGresearch, are monthly surveys completed by thousands of Americans. These surveys provide a snapshot of what consumers say they plan to do for the holiday season. This is the seventh holiday season that NRF has worked with BIGresearch to provide holiday data.

Where can I find complete results and historical data from NRF consumer surveys?
NRF posts the complete results from its consumer surveys at www.nrf.com/holidays. When possible, the information is broken out by demographics with sample charts that make it easy to identify year-over-year trends.

How much do people spend on gift cards during the holiday season?
Last year, consumers spent $26.2 billion on gift cards during the holidays, with an average of $40 spent per card. See page 13 for more specific gift card information and look for NRF to release similar research this holiday season.

What do consumers think about retailers’ return policies?
According to NRF’s sixth annual Returns survey, conducted in 2007, nearly 90% of shoppers think return policies are fair. In addition, more than half of consumers last year said they include a gift receipt or the original receipt most or some of the time when giving a gift.

Retail Holiday Terms

Why is the day after Thanksgiving referred to as Black Friday?
Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving was the day of the year that retailers went from being “in the red” (in debt) to being “in the black” (making a profit). Today, Black Friday is known to consumers as the ceremonial kickoff to the holiday shopping season, an important day for retailers to bring shoppers into their stores with sales and promotions.

Is Black Friday the busiest shopping day of the year?
According to ShopperTrak, Black Friday is rarely the busiest shopping day of the year. NRF does not monitor or track sales by day.

What is Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is the online retail equivalent to Black Friday. The term was coined in 2005 by NRF division Shop.org based on a clear consumer trend that retailers began to recognize in 2003 and 2004. At the time, retailers noticed that many consumers, who were too busy to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend or did not find what they were looking for, shopped online that Monday from home or work to find bargains. Many online retailers see sales spike on Cyber Monday, but, like Black Friday, it is rarely the busiest online shopping day of the year.

What is CyberMonday.com?
CyberMonday.com is a one-stop website for shoppers to find online holiday deals. The site was launched in 2006 by Shop.org to raise money for a scholarship fund in memory of former Shop.org Vice President Ray Greenly. When shoppers make a purchase through the site, retailers provide a percentage of that sale to Shop.org. To date, more than $400,000 has been raised for the Fund, which helps students pursuing careers in eCommerce. 

Retail Operations Data

How many employees do retailers typically hire during the holiday season?
Last year, retailers hired an additional 618,000 workers during the holiday season (pg. 8).

Why have retailers changed their return policies?
Some retailers make return policies more lenient during the holiday season, understanding that there may be a lag time between when a gift is purchased and then received. However, many retailers have also begun to change their return policies to account for an increase in return fraud. Last year, retailers lost $3.7 billion due to return fraud during the holiday season, according to NRF’s second annual Retail Fraud survey (pg. 9).

What are some examples of retail fraud and why is it a big deal?
The most popular form of return fraud is the return of stolen merchandise, which 92 percent of retailers said they experienced last year (pg. 9). Retailers have also been plagued when criminals return merchandise that was originally purchased with fraudulent or counterfeit tender or return merchandising with counterfeit receipts. Return fraud often raises prices for honest shoppers and forces retailers to change their return policies.

Online Sales Information

What is the best way to monitor online holiday sales throughout the holiday season?

Department of Commerce data on online shopping typically lags behind reporting of traditional retail sales by a month or more. The best way to monitor online holiday trends is through Shop.org’s eHoliday survey. For information on online sales in different product categories, Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore release regular sales updates.

In light of gas prices, will online retailers offer free shipping this year?
Shop.org is not expecting the number of retailers offering free shipping to change much this year over last year. (Last year, 79% of online retailers offered free shipping.) Because online retailers know that free shipping can be a way to increase sales, many companies still plan to offer these incentives and are compensating for higher shipping costs by cutting back on operating costs or marketing efforts.

Are traditional retailers hurt when people shop online?
Retailers know that many of their customers like to shop in a variety of ways. If they want to ship a gift directly to a recipient or shop at odd hours, they may choose to shop online. If they want to easily browse for gift ideas or touch merchandise before they buy, they’ll shop in a store. Most retailers do not care if customers shop in stores or online as long as they shop with them.