Neither record inflation, supply chain disruptions nor yet another COVID variant could stop November-December 2021 retail sales from setting its own new record, growing 14.1% from 2020's holiday shopping season to $886.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Both the amount spent and the growth rate top 2020's $777.3 billion spent and 8.2% year-over-year growth.
Radio advertising likely helped drive that year-over-year gain, as sales were driven by double-digit percent increases at retail categories with stores that heavied up with spots during those shopping weeks. While Kohl's, Macy's and JC Penney, MattressFirm, Lowe's and Home Depot, among other retail chains, were big radio ad buyers during the fourth quarter of 2021, clothing and clothing accessory, general merchandise, furniture and home furnishings, and building material and garden supply store sales were up anywhere from 13.5 to 33.1%, according to NRF.
“We closed out the year with outstanding annual retail sales and a record holiday season, which is a clear testament to the power of the consumer and the ingenuity of retailers and their workers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says. “Consumers were backed by strong wages and record savings and began their shopping earlier this year than ever before. The numbers are clear: 2021 was an undeniably outstanding year for retail sales.”
The actual figures exceeded NRF's October forecast for the holiday season, as it projected a sales increase over 2020 between 8.5 and 10.5%, to between $843.4 and $859 billion. Even during December its forecast was below actual performance, predicting sales could be up as much as 11.5%. As it turned out, 2021's November-December 14.1% sales growth compares with an average 4.4% gain over the previous five years. Online spending, meanwhile, was in line with NRF’s forecast, which predicted growth of between 11 and 15%, and between $218.3 and $226.2 billion.
NRF's totals include sales for Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, and include online and non-store sales, while excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail.