By Melissa Manno
Business reporter, Times Union
November 24, 2022 — Despite concerns about mounting inflation, consumers are expected to fill their shopping carts (in store and online) to the brim this holiday season. In fact, the average adult plans on spending more than $800 on gifts and holiday items this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
“People feel like holiday shopping is a very important part of their ritual and routine, so they might be pulling back on some other areas of spending, but they are still going to be doing significant shopping for the holidays,” said Amanda Powers, director of communications and marketing at the Retail Council of New York State.
This year’s holiday retail sales during November and December are forecasted to grow between 6 to 8 percent since last year, according to NRF, the leading global retail trade association. (Sales have averaged an increase of 4.9 percent over the past 10 years.)
The annual figure is predicted to total between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion, up significantly from last year’s $889.3 billion in holiday retail sales which shattered the previous year’s record by more than 13 percent.
While online sales are reported to contribute to a large portion of the growth — 10 percent to 12 percent — in-person shopping is expected to make a major comeback following the ease of restrictions imposed during the height of the COVID pandemic.
Most stores in the Capital Region no longer require masks, and consumers, due to in part to a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases and their vaccination status, feel more comfortable shifting away from online shopping and making their return to a more traditional shopping experience.
On track with recent years, consumers are also checking off their holiday shopping lists earlier than usual due to concerns about inflation, supply chain issues and limited staffing that triggered late shipments and delays in holiday deliveries.
“Retailers are responding to that demand, as we saw several major scheduled buying events in October. While this may result in some sales being pulled forward, we expect to see continued deals and promotions throughout the remaining months,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
This year, 46 percent of holiday shoppers planned to browse or buy before November, according to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Because of this, retailers had to solidify holiday plans early rather than launching them on Black Friday and continuing to find ways to compete in oversaturated markets.
Macy’s, for example, announced this past summer a partnership with WHP Global that will install a Toys R Us shop in every Macy’s in America this holiday season. The move comes after the popular children’s toy retailer filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and closed its last U.S. stores in 2021.
Both Macy’s locations in Albany have already unveiled its Toys R Us showcases. The partnership will enhance the department store’s ability to supply shoppers with this year’s hottest selling gifts for children, like Jurassic World action figures, Lego sets and all things CoComelon, Powers said. Magic Mixies, a new interactive toy where kids can read from a spell book, wave their magic wand and mix together ingredients in a magical, misting cauldron, is also making its debut on many children’s wish lists this year.
Like many other products selling out quickly this season, it largely grew in popularity on social media platforms like TikTok. “If an influencer is talking about it, it’s going to fly off the shelves,” Powers said.
Traditional gifts like jewelry, clothing, cosmetics and electronics continue to be prevalent but, on par with previous years, gift cards and experience gifts, like concert tickets or spa packages, are on the rise as well.
“Gift cards had a surge of popularity during the pandemic because they are always available, you’re not going to have supply chain issues, and people can use them anytime they want,” Powers said. “And with things returning to normal, people want to go out and take part in experiences more than last year.”
These types of gifts also allow consumers to support their community by spending money at local restaurants, theaters, shops and other businesses — a trend people made an extra effort to participate in throughout the pandemic.
“No one’s sugarcoating the inflation, people are absolutely concerned about it,” Powers said referencing the roughly 60 percent of consumers that revealed being worried about inflation. “But people will do what they can to make the holidays happen regardless.”