With Thanksgiving officially kicking off the holiday season, gift spending is off to a “blistering pace.” So far, gift categories are pacing to post 30% growth year-over-year, compared to only 5% in 2020 and under 2% in 2019.
According to Barclay’s Holiday Spend Tracker 2021, gift categories are pacing well ahead of overall retail sales growth, based on comparisons to federal government data. “We are seeing a very robust season that is the best in recent memory. And gift spending is running hotter than general retail sales growth,” a release read.
Barclay’s reports that online share of gift spending is slightly lower than last year, which matches with the general trend of a slight shift back to offline spend in 2021.
Whether this is a pull forward or a sustained increase, is a question still to be answered, the credit card company says. “It's too early to tell, but with spending already at 58% of 2018 levels (compared with 44% of season spend through mid-November in 2020), even a rather sharp fade at the end could still leave us with the biggest holiday spending growth of the recent past,” a release on the report read.
Barclay’s Holiday Spend Tracker 2021 uses Barclay’s credit card transaction panel to monitor the health of holiday spending. The company tracks spending for key holiday season categories including toys, sporting goods, department stores, apparel, handbags/luggage, electronics and digital goods (including media and games). For the purposes of the study, Barclay’s is treating the start of the holiday season as Oct. 1.
“We have already seen consumers spend about 58% of what they spent in 2018 (chosen to be a neutral baseline for comparisons to more recent years),” the release continues. “In contrast, by this date in 2020 spending was only about 44% of the 2018 total; in 2019 we were only pacing at 42% of the 2018 total.”