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Holiday 2017

2017: Holiday sales expected to grow between 3.6 and 4 percent

NRF expects holiday retail sales in November and December – excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.

View survey data.

Retail Holiday Planning Playbook

The 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook is retail’s guide for understanding the key lessons from the 2016 season and how the consumer’s ever-evolving path to purchase will impact the upcoming holiday season. To help retailers prepare for the 2017 holidays, NRF surveyed over 2,000 holiday shoppers to understand their experiences and behavior during the 2016 season and what they expect from retailers moving forward. Along with data highlighting consumer expectations, the report provides suggestions for retailers to consider when planning for the season. Download the Playbook.

Historical Highlights


Holiday retail sales increased 4 percent in 2016

Holiday retail sales during November and December increased 4 percent over 2015 to $658.3 billion, exceeding NRF’s forecast of $655.8 billion. The number includes $122.9 billion in non-store sales, which were up 12.6 percent over the year before. Consumers showed more confidence during the holiday season, and December was up 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from November and 3.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year. View 2016 Holiday slideshare for more highlights.

NRF's second annual Retail Holiday Planning Playbook built on themes to help retailers tackle the upcoming holiday. The free report combined consumer survey data and retailer insights to inspire company-wide conversations about marketing, operations, fulfillment and other holiday plans. Download the 2016 playbook.

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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.

2015 report: thinking big about shopping small

Small businesses have a distinct advantage: They’re agile and can adapt to changing conditions throughout the holiday season. In 2015, one in four holiday shoppers planned to purchase from small or local retailers. NRF's report offers a look at survey data to see how consumers who planned to “shop small” differed from the average shopper. Download the report.

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The 2014 holiday season was one for the history books: Disney’s “Frozen” took the top spot on the girls’ Top Toys List for the first time in the survey’s 11-year history, holiday shoppers opted for early promotions even before the Thanksgiving weekend kicked off — shifting how much people spent over the biggest shopping weekend of the year — and for the first time in 12 years, consumer spent more than $800 on average on holiday gifts, food, decorations and more. See more highlights in NRF's Top Trends in 2014 Holiday Shopping SlideShare.

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A shortened holiday calendar, an early Thanksgiving and an October government shutdown puts the 2013 holiday season in the books as one of the most interesting in history. For the first time in 17 years, holiday shoppers watched as Washington shut its doors for two weeks in October. During his annual holiday forecast media call, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told listeners that the 3.9 percent forecast “was a very realistic look at where we are in the current economy.”

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The economic picture going into the holiday season was much like it was the year prior – uncertain. Government data showed a crosscurrent of indicators that hung in the balance of Washington’s decision to avoid a “fiscal cliff.” NRF’s first holiday spending survey found that consumers would spend close to what they’d spent the previous year, an average of $740 on gifts, decorations, flowers, food and more.

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In December, NRF announced it was revising its holiday forecast upwards to 3.8 percent from the original forecast of 2.8 percent. Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz commented, “Consumer spending this holiday season has surpassed expectations, though many shoppers continue to stick to their budgets and buy only what they need. Despite modest job and income growth, consumers have continuously proven they have the capacity to spend.” Holiday sales in 2011 ended up increasing even more than expected at 4.8 percent.

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