Marketing Tip: National Retail Foundation’s Holiday Frequently Asked Questions

NRF is projecting 2013 holiday sales to rise 3.9% to $602.1 billion.

How much did holiday sales change last year?

In 2012, holiday sales increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion. By comparison, 2011’s $560.2 billion was a 5.1% increase over 2010. On average, holiday sales have increased 3.3% for the last 10 years.

Why are these numbers different than what you have previously reported?

The Commerce Department continuously revises retail sales data. NRF relies on the most recent set of estimates from the government for all of its forecasts and sales releases.

What percentage of annual sales do the holidays represent?

For some retailers, the holiday season can represent as much as 20-40% of annual sales. In 2012, holiday sales represented 19.3% of total retail industry sales.

Will NRF change its holiday forecast throughout the course of the holiday season?

While NRF reserves the right to change its forecast at any time, NRF rarely does so. In 2012, NRF raised its forecast mid-season when sales were better than expected. In 2001, NRF lowered its forecast.

How do NRF’s surveys differ from its forecast?

NRF’s holiday forecast is based on an economic model using indicators such as housing data, unemployment and previous monthly retail sales reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce. NRF’s holiday surveys, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, provide a snapshot of what consumers say they plan to do for the holiday season. This is the twelfth holiday season that NRF has partnered with Prosper, formerly BIGinsight, to provide holiday data, making it possible to identify year-over-year trends.

How many extra jobs does the retail industry create during the holiday season?

How many extra jobs does the retail industry create during the holiday season?This year, NRF estimates that retailers will hire between 720,000 and 780,000 seasonal employees, compared with the actual 720,500 they hired last holiday season.

What does NRF classify as the "winter holidays"?

NRF tallies total retail industry sales from November and December – 61 days – to determine holiday sales. Holidays during this period include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. This year there are 26 days in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How does NRF define "retail industry sales"?

Retail industry sales include most traditional retail sales categories such as discount stores, department stores, grocers, specialty stores and non-store sales but exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

What is’s prediction for online holiday sales growth this year? projects online holiday sales to increase between 13 and 15% to as much as $82 billion during the months of November and December. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that final Q4 (October – December) e-commerce sales in 2012 increased 15.7%.

What factors are used to calculate’s online holiday forecast?’s estimates are based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census, the Conference Board, and NRF’s own calculations. These estimates include personal income and spending, consumer credit, consumer confidence, and previous monthly retail reports.

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is the online retail equivalent of Black Friday. The term was coined in 2005 by NRF’s division based on a clear consumer behavior in 2003 and 2004. Retailers noticed that many consumers, who were too busy to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend or did not find what they were looking for, shopped online that Monday to find bargains, often from work. At that time, many took advantage of the high-speed Internet connections available at work, when many had dial up modems or no Internet connection at home.

Why are many retailers putting holiday merchandise on the shelves so early?

Each year, about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. While most retailers do not begin holiday advertising until at least October or November, they recognize that many people like shopping early to spread out spending. As a result, many retailers are putting holiday merchandise on the shelves in September – specifically decorations and greeting cards, which many people buy months in advance.

Is Black Friday the busiest shopping day of the year?

NRF does not monitor or track sales by day. However, ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic at malls, reports that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, followed by "Super Saturday" and the Sunday before

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