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Holiday retail sales to climb 6% to 8%, NRF says

Trade group predicts US sales could hit $960B for holiday season

NRF expects solid holiday sales despite macro concerns (Photo: Shutterstock)

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted Thursday that noninflation-adjusted holiday retail sales will rise 6% to 8% to up to $960.4 billion. That’s a 40% to 50% drop from 2021’s record levels but still what the trade group called a healthy increase in light of high inflation and economic downturn concerns.

Online and other nonstore sales will range between $262.8 billion and $267.6 billion, which would be up 10% to 12% from the past holiday season when more people shopped online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NRF. The U.S. retail industry’s leading trade group said it expected consumers to do more in-store holiday shopping than they did  last year.

NRF, which defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, said that 46% of consumers planned to browse or buy before Nov. 1 to avoid the stress of holiday shopping and to spread out their budgets over a longer time period. 

“Consumers are out earlier than ever,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told reporters after the forecast was published. 

Shay added that consumers are behaving more “thoughtfully and cautiously” in response to the macro headwinds.

Shay’s comments run counter to those made by Carol Tomè, CEO of UPS Inc., (NYSE: UPS) who said on the company’s quarterly analyst call last week that it expects a later peak delivery cycle as consumers revert to pre-pandemic behavior and supply chain disruptions fade.

Last year in particular, many consumers shopped early out of concern that supply chain bottlenecks might delay holiday deliveries.

NRF members have not voiced any concerns about problems with delivery availability this holiday, a spokesperson said. The last two years were challenging for large retailers as consumers spent freely and online orders spiked, leading to moves by delivery carriers to cap peak-season volumes. With online ordering expected to be relatively muted this holiday due to more in-store shopping and economic concerns, delivery capacity is expected to be much looser.

NRF data excludes motor vehicle, gasoline and restaurant sales. It is also not adjusted for inflation, which during the 2022 holiday is likely to drive up the cost of purchases. The trade group said it still expects inflation-adjusted sales growth this holiday season.

Retailers expect to hire between 450,000 and 600,000 seasonal workers, down from 669,800 in 2021, according to NRF. There are approximately 800,000 unfilled retail jobs in the U.S..

For 2023, NRF anticipates total retail sales to rise 6% to 8% to more than $4.86 trillion. Officials also expect the economy to slow in 2023 but maintain it was premature to forecast a major decline since job and wage growth remain strong and consumers are not overly leveraged.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.