Winter Holidays

pinecones and other holiday themed items

Winter Holidays

NRF’s holiday surveys gauge consumer sentiment and shopping trends during the winter holiday season, including Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday and Christmas.

Thanksgiving outcome: Multichannel shopping up almost 40 percent

More than 165 million Americans shopped either in stores or online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.  The average shopper spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items.

large group of people are seen shopping on black friday
Girl at holiday market
Young adults most likely to spend more this holiday

According to a new survey, most consumers say they will spend about the same as last year, but young adults are most likely to increase their spending. Top gifts continue to be clothing and accessories, and Barbie and LEGO top the list of most popular toys.

Women shopping for holidays
Thanksgiving forecast: More than 164 million consumers plan to shop

Of those planning to shop during the five-day holiday weekend, 21 percent (34 million) plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, but Black Friday will remain the busiest day with 71 percent (116 million) planning to shop.

Consumers will spend 4.1 percent more than last year during winter holidays

Consumers say they will spend an average $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, up 4.1 percent from the $967.13 last year. They will spend in three main categories — gifts at $637.67, items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards at $215.04 and non-gift purchases made because deals are good at $154.53.

three women are walking at an outdoor shopping center with shopping bags
Hundreds of people shop at a busy outdoor mall during the holiday season
This holiday, discounts will win shoppers

5 retail sales and promotions trends leading up to Thanksgiving weekend.

Holiday forecast 2018

Thanks to a healthy economy and strong consumer confidence, NRF expects holiday retail sales in November and December to increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion.

A blue door with a holiday wreath hanging
Did you know?

The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by NRF for the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is seen by many retailers, shoppers and the media as the official kickoff to the online holiday shopping season.

Holiday FAQs

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Historical highlights


Holiday sales during November and December 2017 increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion as growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence led consumers to spend more than had been expected. The results exceeded NRF’s forecast of between $678.75 billion and $682 billion. December alone was up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from November and up 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the five-day holiday weekend. The most popular day for in-store shopping was Black Friday, cited by 77 million consumers, followed by Small Business Saturday with 55 million consumers. 

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The 2016 Holiday season was full of surprises. The start of the season coincided with the U.S. presidential election and consumers seemed initially cautious about their spending plans. However, once the election had passed, shoppers fully embraced the holiday spirit. Total holiday retail sales during November and December increased 4 percent over 2015, exceeding NRF’s initial forecast of $655.8 billion. For the second year in a row, Barbie topped the toy list for girls while Legos continued to lead the list for boys. In addition to spending on gifts for friends, family members and co-workers, consumers also use the season to pick up non-gift items. Nearly two-thirds of consumers planned to take advantage of the 2016 holiday sales to splurge on something extra for themselves or their families.

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The 2015 holiday season provided tough obstacles for the retail industry including weather and inventory challenges. Average spending per person during the holiday season was over $800 for the second year in a row, with more than half of shoppers splurging on non-gift items for themselves. Barbie was back in the number one spot on the Top Toys list after falling behind Disney’s Frozen in 2014, following an 11-year reign.

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More consumer trends

NRF study says consumers shop at discount retailers regardless of age or income
woman pushing a shopping cart through a store
89 percent of consumers shop at various discount retailers.
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Monthly Economic Review: October 2018
a family is shown in the kitchen after grocery shopping
The calendar is racing to the 2018 holidays.
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What’s the deal with deal-hunting?
a woman contemplates getting a shirt in a store
Nine in 10 consumers shop at bargain retailers.
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