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How COVID-19 is Impacting Consumer Spending: Holiday Special Coverage

As we approach the holiday season, companies across the retail landscape are in a much different position than they were a year ago. A number of general merchandise industries, particularly those that improve life at home, have experienced double-digit year-over-year sales growth in recent months. Meanwhile, other industries have struggled — players in those spaces will look to the holiday shopping season as an opportunity to reverse course.

We will update this page frequently with sales tracking data, expert analysis, and other resources to help you navigate this year’s holiday shopping season.

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U.S. Holiday Purchase Intentions Snapshot

A sampling of insights from our 2020 U.S. Holiday Purchase Intentions Report. Read our methodology here.

Expected Holiday Spend

Consumers plan to spend an average of $691 during the 2020 holiday shopping season, which is less than last year’s anticipated holiday spending, but on par with 2018 plans.

Online Shopping

Consumers plan to do 48% of their holiday shopping online this year, up from 41% last year.

Free Shipping

41% of consumers cited free shipping as something that would influence where they shop for holiday gifts, surpassing special sale price as the top influencer for the first time.

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U.S. Consumption Trends by Week

General Merchandise: Dollar Change Versus Year Ago

Compared to last year, U.S. general merchandise dollar sales increased 12% in the week ending November 14.

Source: The NPD Group/Point-of-Sale Early Indicator Report, NPD Universe, WE Nov 14, 2020
Industries Included: Apparel, Footwear, Auto Aftermarket, Watches, Housewares, Small Domestic Appliances, Toys, Video, Sports Accessories, Consumer Technology, Office Supplies, Prestige Beauty, Juvenile Products

Video: Holiday To Do’s for Brands and Retailers

NPD's chief industry advisor speaks to the increased importance of communication, consumers, price, and product for brands and retailers this holiday season.

Holiday 2020 Perspectives:

Marshal Cohen
Chief Industry Advisor, Retail

"Current limitations on experiences, coupled with consumer hesitation to go out like they did pre-pandemic, will have consumers favoring more tangible gift items this holiday. Experiential gifts, like spa certificates, had grown over the past couple of years, but that trend will be disrupted this year. We’ve already seen this happen over the recent Mother’s and Father’s Day holidays, where popular general merchandise categories saw sales lift for the week that was two and three times what it was in 2019."

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Joe Derochowski
Industry Advisor, Home

"This year the holidays will be as much, if not more, about the time we spend at home than the time we spend with others. In preparation for the holidays, and colder weather across many regions of the country, consumers will be looking to give and get products that both facilitate and enhance their altered celebrations and increased in-home activities."

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Larissa Jensen
Industry Advisor, Beauty

"In this spirit of self-care and doing something good for ourselves, consumers may be more inclined to self-gift this year - because won’t we all want to congratulate ourselves for making it to 2021? But even beyond the self-gift, self-care related gifts for others are an opportunity as well. Brands and retailers need to make it easier for consumers to decide which beauty products to buy for everyone on their list, including themselves."

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Ben Arnold
Industry Analyst, Consumer Electronics

"Sales of items we need to get through the school or workday took priority in the first half of this year, but as we head into Q4 and the holidays we expect many of these ‘needs’ will have been satisfied and consumers will begin to purchase items they consider to be ‘wants’ or gifts for the holiday season, such as TVs and noise-cancelling headphones."

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Maria Rugolo
Industry Analyst, Apparel

"Sweatshirts, sweatpants, active bottoms, sleepwear, and socks are forecasted to make up 31% of total U.S. apparel spend this holiday season, compared to 26% in Q4 2019. This is a call to action for the apparel industry to make stronger connections with consumers’ current needs and behavior."

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Matt Piscatella
Industry Analyst, U.S. Games

"New consoles, more players, increased player engagement, wider variety in titles and services than at any point in the industry’s history, and a shift in spending away from experiences to other segments all give video games strong market tailwinds this holiday. It is not so much a question of whether the U.S. video game market will set a new spending record this holiday, rather the question is how high the new record will be."

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