Retail, Online, & Gift Cards Part of Holiday Sales Forecast

According to the NRF and, holiday sales this year will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion, tempered by political and fiscal uncertainties but supported by signs of improvement in consumer confidence. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 3.5%. Actual holiday sales in 2011 grew 5.6%.  

And, the 2012 Online holiday sales forecast is expecting sales to grow 12% over last holiday season to as much as $96 billion. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates total 2011 4th Quarter e-commerce sales increased 15%. defines the holiday season as sales in the months of November and December.

The NRF’s 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions survey finds that holiday shoppers are expected to spend an average of $155.43 on gift cards, the highest amount since 2007 and up from $145.61 last year. This holiday season, total spending on gift cards will reach $27.8 billion.

Thanks to e-gifting, instant delivery through Facebook, personalized video and even mobile options, gift cards remain the most requested holiday gift, marking the fifth year in a row gift cards have topped consumers’ wish lists.

NRF President and CEO, Matthew Shay, said “... (with) gift cards, holiday shoppers have the added advantage of convenience and creativity on their side this year... as discretionary gifts are expected to be popular, many consumers will view gift cards as an ‘everyday value item,’... “

Shoppers will spend an average of $43.23 per card, up from $41.48 last year. Men will spend significantly more on gift cards than women this year, shelling out an average of $164.24 versus women’s $147.06.

When it comes to which gift cards people will buy this holiday season, shoppers say they will give their friends or family members a gift card to:

  • Department store (38.7%)
  • Restaurant (33.8%)
  • Entertainment venue such as a night at the movies or music event (18.2%.)
  • Book stores (19.8%),
  • Coffee shops (15.9%)
  • Discount stores (13.0 %)

46.4% of shoppers say they will buy gift cards because it allows the recipient to select their own gift. Additionally, 9.4% say they will choose the cards because they are more convenient, as they are easier and faster to buy.

Though for eight in 10 Americans gift cards serve as an ideal gift option, some still say they are less likely to buy gift cards this year because they seem impersonal (26.1%), are concerned about fees and expiration dates (17.4%) or because they’d rather buy items on sale to stretch their dollar (9.1%.)

24.4% of shoppers are expected to buy Visa/Mastercard/American Express gift cards this year, and NRF encourages shoppers to understand the differences between store-issued and bank-issued gift cards before making shopping decisions.

Shay, said “... the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession... in spite of the uncertainties... we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year... ” and added that  “... shoppers look to the holiday season to take advantage of retailers’ increased digital offerings... retailers have spent the year investing in optimizing their mobile and social platforms... “
Retailers are expected to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, which is comparable to the 607,500 seasonal employees they hired last year.

For additional information, please visit the NRF here.



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