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Retail Forecasts Signal Slight Growth for 2020 Holiday Season

Business • October 21, 2020

By Nick Rigitano
NSGA Director of Insights and Analysis

DOWNERS GROVE, ILLINOIS (October 21, 2020) – With the 2020 holiday season quickly approaching, NSGA has been tracking the holiday sales growth forecasts released by multiple organizations. The overall sentiment from the retail holiday forecasts is slight growth expected for the upcoming season with the largest gains being driven by the e-commerce channel.

According to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast, holiday retail sales are likely to increase between 1–1.5 percent compared to last year. E-commerce is expected to play a big role this holiday season. The increase in e-commerce sales experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic is also expected to continue as the forecast calls for sales to increase by 25–35 percent year over year, much larger than the 14.7 percent increase in e-commerce sales experienced during the 2019 holiday season.

RetailNext, Inc., a retail analytics company, forecasted an increase of zero to 1.5 percent in November and December retail sales vs. a year ago, driven largely by a 25-35 percent increase in year-over-year sales through digital channels. Brick-and-mortar store performance, however, is expected to suffer its largest holiday season decrease with decreases of 27 to 31 percent year over year. Shopper intent will be a bright spot, leading to brick-and mortar store sales down less than traffic, projected at decreases of 12 to 18 percent.

In addition, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is predicting a 1.9 percent year-over-year growth in retail sales this holiday season. The ICSC also noted that 81 percent of US adults plan to shop in a physical store during the holiday season. ICSC anticipates the shopping season will be longer this year, with 77 percent of respondents expecting to start earlier than they normally would.

The ICSC said more consumers are planning to start their shopping before Thanksgiving Weekend than in the past, with 67 percent saying they’ll begin before Thanksgiving Day — and 23 percent as soon as October — as they look to take advantage of early sales and avoid shipping delays, crowded stores or out-of-stock items.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is waiting to release its holiday forecast until it has more solid data to make an accurate forecast, according to a spokesperson for the organization. The timing is expected to occur in November and NSGA will share that information as soon as it is available.

NRF did launch a holiday campaign called “New Holiday Traditions” that encourages consumers to shop safe and shop early this year to ensure the gifts they want are in stock and can be delivered on time.

“We’ve seen surprisingly robust spending throughout holiday events so far this year, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and in many cases at record levels,” said Bill Thorne, NRF Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, in a statement.  “This illustrates how both consumers and retailers are adapting and finding innovative ways to safely celebrate the holidays despite this year’s extraordinary circumstances.”

For tips and best practices in preparing your store for the holidays, be sure to check out NSGA’s Guide to a Better Retailing Experience. This guide can help store owners enhance the retail experience at their stores and includes ideas and suggestions for each aspect of a retail store including the storefront, cash wrap, floor and wall fixtures, graphics, floors, lighting, fitting rooms, and casual seating areas. The guide is free to NSGA members and is one of the most downloaded reports offered by NSGA.

NSGA members can download a copy of the report by clicking here. Be sure to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 sporting goods industry resources by visiting