According to the latest holiday spending statistics by the National Retail Federation (NRF), which defines the holiday spending period as the months of November and December, US holiday season sales have been growing at an average of 4.9 percent per year from 2011 to 2021.

In 2011, consumers spent $553.3 billion during the year-end shopping season. Since then, holiday retail sales have been steadily increasing. 

The largest of these annual growths came in 2021. At a 14.1 percent increase year-over-year, this takes the 2021 holiday retail sales to a total of $886.70 billion. This beats the previous record recorded in 2020 when holiday retail sales grew at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. 

It also came rather unexpectedly for a year that was plagued by challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, NRF analysts had previously predicted a growth of up to 11.5 percent to $859 billion. 

2021’s holiday retail sales growth came despite inflation, logistical disruptions, and the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have attributed the increase to strong wages and record savings from consumers, as well as some ingenuity from retailers.

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Sectors Driving 2021’s Holiday Retail Sales Growth

Of the retail sectors that contributed to 2021’s holiday season sales growth, the biggest increase came from clothing and clothing accessory stores. Their combined sales grew by a whopping 33.1 percent from the previous year.

Such notable growth in fashion-related merchandise was to be expected, considering that the fashion industry currently ranks among the top online shopping categories

Other sectors driving the US’ holiday retail sales in 2021 include sporting goods stores, whose sales increased by 20.9 percent, as well as general merchandise stores, which increased by 15.2 percent. 

Furniture and home furnishings stores follow close behind with a 15 percent increase, and the fifth-biggest driver of the 2021 holiday retail sales increase is electronics and appliance stores, whose sales rose by 13.8 percent.

This is followed by businesses selling building materials and garden supplies. Their holiday sales grew 13.5 percent year over year. 

Online and other non-store sales increased 11.3 percent. The increase should come as no surprise, considering the internet was consumers’ top shopping destination in 2021. In fact, as many as 57 percent of US consumers surveyed just before the holiday season had said they planned to do their holiday shopping online.

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