The 2020 holiday shopping season for retailers was better than expected.
Sales grew 8.3% compared to last year, exceeding the National Retail Federation holiday forecast of between 3.6% and 5.2% despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9% at $209 billion.
Katherine Cullen, NRF’s senior director of industry and consumer insights, said consumers stuck at home had more disposable cash.
“They’re spending less on dining out, they are spending less on travel, specifically holiday travel, and so it seems they had a little extra cash to spend on gifts,” Cullen said.
The holiday season had year-over-year gains in six out of nine retail categories, led by double-digit increases for online sales, sporting goods stores and garden supply stores.
On the contrary, electronics and appliance stores and clothing stores saw sales decrease by more than 14% from last year.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said that overall December sales, including restaurants, auto dealers and gas stations, were down 0.7% seasonally adjusted from November, but up 2.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
The pandemic didn’t spare all. Some brick-and-mortar stores in Illinois closed up shop for good in 2020. J.C. Penney closed its remaining 5 stores in the state, GNC shuttered 13 stores in Illinois, and children’s apparel chain Justice closed all 26 stores in the state.
As for 2021, Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine should help brick-and-mortar stores.
“I think once people are vaccinated and retail has proven they can operate safely, so I think once the vaccine is widely out that will certainly help,” Karr said.
Cullen said there are so many variables for retail sales when looking ahead to this year.
“Consumers have extra money from pulling back in other areas of their lives,” Cullen said. “That could certainly continue into this year, but there is still a lot of unknowns when we are trying to put together our forecast.”
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