Will there be holiday cheer in retail sales this season?

Holiday Shopping ForecastHere’s a statistic that surprises no one, probably:  As of November 1st, more than one in five U.S. consumers had already begun their holiday season shopping.

Considering that many merchants begin pushing online and in-store holiday sales in October, it’s hardly any wonder.

In fact, marketing firm IgnitionOne is predicting that American consumers will spend 11% more during Thanksgiving weekend than they did last year.

Some of the increase is undoubtedly due to the calendar; Thanksgiving weekend is nearly a full week later than it was in 2012.

And other forecasting data don’t presage a big jump in holiday sales this year.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales are expected to be “not too hot … not too cold” – up a tad from 2012 but not at the growth level witnessed in 2010 and 2011:

  • 2009:  0.5% sales increase over previous year
  • 2010:  5.3% increase
  • 2011:  5.1% increase
  • 2012:  3.5% increase
  • 2013 (forecast):  3.9% increase to $602 billion

Clues to the reasons behind the middling sales growth forecast can be found in Nielsen’s Holiday Spending Forecast report, in which American consumers describe their financial circumstances in these terms:

  • Two-thirds still feel like they’re in a recession.
  • Half are limited to spending funds on only the basics.
  • One in five has no spare cash at all.

How this translates to the amount of dollars consumers expect to spend on their holiday shopping breaks down as follows:

  • ~44% will spend less than $250 this season
  • ~30% will spend between $250 and $500
  • ~20% will spend between $500 and $1,000
  • ~6% will spend more than $1,000

As in years past, the most popular gift item promises to be … gift cards.  Technology products, toys, food and apparel round out the “top five” holiday gifts.  This is little changed from last year.

And here’s one other stat that retail establishments must be looking at:  Mobile commerce sales grew by ~16% during the holiday season between 2011 and 2012, and ~18% of shoppers checked out deals on their mobile devices.

Those percentages are bound to increase this year.

More findings from Nielsen’s 2013 Holiday Spending Forecast study can be found here.