NPD: Holiday Sales Sluggish Through Mid-December

Point-of-sale figures show consumers continue to keep a tight grip on their wallets in the face of high prices.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
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Consumer spending through the first two weeks of December was sluggish as shoppers continue to prioritize how they spend in the face of higher prices.

U.S. retail point-of-sale information from The NPD Group shows discretionary general merchandise sales revenue fell more than 2% during Cyber Week (week ending Dec. 3) and 5% the following week. Fourth quarter retail sales revenue through Dec. 10 is 6% below 2021 results, with unit sales down 10%.

“The traditional feeling of spirited chaos is missing from retail this holiday season, and not in a good way,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD. “With just weeks to go in the holiday shopping season, momentum and the urgency to shop is still missing, as the consumer’s need to prioritize higher-priced food is impeding discretionary spending.”

While discretionary spending continues to exceed pre-pandemic results, the current economic conditions have made it increasingly difficult to meet the elevated spending levels of the past two years, NPD officials said. In order for fourth-quarter sales revenue to break even with last year, the final three weeks of 2022 will need to outperform 2021 by 5%. All eyes are on Super Saturday as it typically ranks as the second highest grossing week of the fourth quarter. In 2021, Super Saturday grew 15% compared to the prior week.

Ahead of this holiday shopping season, some consumers indicated they had their eyes on late-season activity, with 4% planning to wait until the last minute to even begin their holiday shopping, and 8% identifying the week before Christmas as the time they felt they would get the best deals.

“Retailers and manufacturers should be prepared for the trend of spread-out sales to continue through the end of the season, with an early Super Saturday followed by nearly a full week of shopping days,” Cohen said. “Consumers have become accustomed to the frequent discounts they’ve enjoyed since October, so deeper discounts are now necessary to incentivize spending in these final holiday weeks, particularly among the last-minute shoppers.”