The holiday sales track record over 25+ years


Volatility is one of the characteristics of holiday retail sales—with the focus here on stores that sell gift-type goods. These stores, in other words, exclude car dealers, gas stations, restaurants, food, and drug stores.

More specifically, the graphic above shows that:

  • Volatility is evident in sales growth that can spike well above average in any given year—or periodically slow to a significant degree.
  • Growth since the Great Recession until the pandemic was about 1.5 percentage points weaker on average compared with the years prior to 2008-2009.
  • In 2020, the pandemic produced the strongest holiday retail sales since 1999. The gains, however, were focused in just three places: e-commerce, home improvement and sporting goods/hobby stores. In 2021, holiday sales were even stronger, but e-commerce was the laggard while most other store sectors surged on weak comparisons.

Note that the store types considered here are shown among the “multiple selections” in the chart’s drop-down box, which can be changed to show the holiday pattern for any specific retail channel.



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