Key stat: Holiday retail sales in the US are expected to grow by approximately 4.5% in 2023, a slight increase from the previous year’s 3.9% growth, according to our June forecast.
While this growth may not seem significant, it would represent the sixth-fastest growth rate in holiday retail sales in the past 15 years, according to our forecast. Here’s how we expect ecommerce growth, inflation, and emerging payment trends like buy now, pay later (BNPL) to impact the holiday season.
Ecommerce is playing a role earlier in the season
- Early sales events in October are extending the holiday shopping season. “Everybody wants to capture these sales sooner rather than later when they’re a little bit more confident in their ability to select the right mix. Consumer trends are changing so quickly, so if you order something because you think you can sell it, you want to sell it faster,” our analyst Jeremy Goldman said on a recent “Behind the Numbers: Reimagining Retail” podcast.
- We anticipate strong ecommerce growth during the 2023 holiday season, with a projected increase of 11.3%, according to our June forecast. While this growth is substantial in comparison with 2022 (which saw 6.0% growth), it’s far shy of the 39.0% holiday retail ecommerce growth during the pandemic year of 2020.
- As more retailers join Amazon in offering sales starting in October, brands will also likely lower the prices of their merchandise to win over frugal customers. But execution will be key for these retailers. This is demonstrated as TJX has managed to dominate in the off-price space, whereas Nordstrom Rack has struggled to offer an exciting mix of brands that resonate with shoppers.
BNPL will remain relevant
- BNPL transactions increased 20% on Amazon Prime Day this past July, per Adobe Analytics. “This is a clear sign that consumers are looking to credit to finance their purchases, and I think we’ll undoubtedly see that trend continuing throughout the holidays,” said our analyst Zak Stambor.
- BNPL will make up 1.0% of total US retail sales this year, with potential growth to 1.5% by 2027, per our forecast, defying our analysts’ prediction from a year and a half ago that the BNPL bubble would burst.
The opportunity in returns
- Returns can extend holiday spending past December by drawing customers to their physical stores, where consumers may shop for other items.
- Some retailers are offering brick-and-mortar shoppers special promotions or incentives to encourage them to return to the store. “You have to make sure that you’re taking advantage of the return season and make sure that you treat the holidays as a marathon, but the end of the marathon is let’s say January 15,” said Goldman.
Holiday sales growth may result from inflation
- Though we will see sales growth this holiday season, some of the growth could be the result of rising prices rather than increased consumer spending, said Goldman.
- After steep inflation rates in 2022, prices continue to rise, with the consumer price index up 3.7% YoY in August, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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