Coronavirus BRIEFING

NRF Says 2020 Holiday Sales Grew 8.3 Percent Despite Pandemic

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WASHINGTON—Retail sales during 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, exceeding the National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast despite the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, NRF said last week. The numbers include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9 percent at $209 billion.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year.

“We believe President-elect Biden’s stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing.”

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said consumers shifted into high gear in December, giving the holiday season a strong finish that could be a good sign for the continuing recovery of the economy this year. The 8.3 percent holiday season increase was more than double the 3.5 percent average holiday increase over the previous five years, including 2019’s 4 percent gain.