Retail Trends To Look Out For During the Winter Holiday Season

This winter is stacking up to be another chapter of uncertainty for many holiday-goers, but the National Retail Federation (NRF) still predicts spending to be the highest on record. Read more about what to expect this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's shopping season.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s, the winter holiday season is stacking up to be another chapter of uncertainty for many holiday-goers. The National Retail Federation (NRF) still predicts spending to be the highest on record at nearly 10% over last year, but for holidays such as Thanksgiving, it is looking to be shaping up to be a more muted season, with fewer people planning to gather for the festive fun.

Here is what you need to know about retail spending trends for the 2021 winter season.

Thanksgiving Is Shaping up to Be Quieter in 2021

Consumers expect COVID-19 to have an impact on their Thanksgiving plans, though only 15% expect it to be significant. 

Thanksgiving celebrations are anticipated to be less lively, as travel and party plans are predicted to be half of those of a typical year. A majority of Americans still plan to gather with their friends and family to celebrate; however, this is down 13% from an average year.

What Are Americans Buying for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving purchase intentions have declined across the board, with Turkey and Baking Ingredients declining by nearly 10 percent. As for desserts, snacks, alcohol, and meats & seafood, the declines are smaller; however, it appears that consumers are still gathering for feasts, but probably in fewer numbers or only with those closest to them.

People Are Sticking Closer to Home This Christmas

No matter what holiday they celebrate this year, over half of consumers are expecting some sort of impact from COVID-19. 

In contrast to previous years, only 72% of consumers plan to spend Christmas with friends and family this year, down from 86%. Many are also less likely to travel, eat out, or order in for Christmas, suggesting a simpler holiday closer to home for many Americans.

How Are Consumers Spending Their Money This Christmas?

While The National Retail Federation forecast for Thanksgiving and Christmas shows a more simple season, that does not mean people are unwilling to spend their hard-earned money this Christmas. In November and December of 2021, they forecast holiday sales to rise between 8.5% to 10.5% over last year, which equates close to $859 billion.

In a typical year, about two-fifths of consumers spend more than $100 on food and drinks during the festivities. Approximately two-thirds anticipate spending roughly the same amount this year as they have in previous years, with a fifth expecting to splurge even more!

Where will People Buy Their Christmas Gifts?

Approximately two-thirds of consumers plan to make Christmas gift purchases through mass retailers or online. Club/Wholesale rounds out the top 3 and is also the only channel expected to grow, although by only 1%.

Many consumers expect to begin their Christmas gift shopping in November, but more than a third have begun even earlier. People plan to buy gifts on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday to the tune of 30%, 25%, and 7%, respectively.

People Are Choosing a More Peaceful New Year’s Eve

69% of consumers expect COVID-19 to have an impact on their New Year's celebrations, but only 16% believe it will be significant.

It is estimated that 60% of people will celebrate New Year's Eve this year, a 15% drop for activities like gathering with friends and family, and a 19% drop for attending or hosting a party. In addition, we expect a 16% decline in going out for food or drinks. Nearly 6% will not celebrate at all.

What are Americans buying this New Year's Eve?

Drinks and snacks will be the most popular items purchased to celebrate New Year's Eve, although both are anticipated to be down from previous years. On the other end of the spectrum, over half of NYE celebrators will choose to splurge and purchase luxury goods such as meat, seafood, and decadent desserts.

Key Takeaways

  • The majority of consumers intend to spend close to what they normally do for Thanksgiving and New Year, or slightly less.
  • People will be going big for Christmas spending this November and December, with anticipated growth in spending up 8.5% to 10.5% from last year.
  • Consumers will be conducting seasonal shopping earlier and choosing to do so online through mass retailers or wholesale clubs.
  • People are choosing to gather and travel less from previous years, but the majority are still looking to spend the holidays with family and friends.

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