How “abnormal” of a holiday season can small business owners expect? NPD Group in its NOW IN RETAIL: 2020 U.S. Holiday Purchase Intentions report makes two holiday projections.

  1. They expect “traditional holiday” sales to be up 2.5–3.4%. This encompasses general merchandise categories occurring in November and December.
  2. The “new holiday” sales will be up 4.3–5.1%. They kicked off last month with Amazon’s Prime Days/Deal Days and runs through mid-January gift card redemption.

NPD calls Holiday 2020 “more of a renovation than a rebuild” and expects it to “accentuate underlying trends that have been developing over the past few years.” While consumers are concerned about the state of the economy, NPD says they’re hoping the holidays “provide a break and some ‘retail therapy’.” Consumers plan to spend less this year on their holiday shopping than they did last year ($691 vs. $740).

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has affected holiday plans. Since so many of us won’t be celebrating with our families and friends this holiday season, 42% of shoppers will ship most of their gifts. This, says NPD, will impact the types of gifts purchased—and when they’re bought. And, “free shipping is the number-one factor influencing where consumers will shop” this year.

Due to COVID-19, NPD says consumers will buy more “old school” gifts and spend less on personal experiences and experiential gifts. Think gifts that evoke “getting cozy,” indulgencies like in-home spa, family fun, and outdoor activities.

Consumers plan to shop “with practicality in mind.” NPD predicts gift involving “healthy lifestyle, safer living, home improvement and décor, entertainment, in-home learning and working, and hobbies/crafts all will see big lifts this season.”

And of course, online sales will soar. NPD says there’s good news for small businesses: “Leveling the playing field for retailers of all sizes, there will be more competition across the board as brands enter into the digital holiday offerings.”

Of course, that means less traffic for brick-and-mortar retailers, so make sure you’re offering “ongoing promotions.” NPD says 31% of shoppers plan to do more self-gifting this year, so be sure to encourage that in-store with signage and displays.

Christmas stock photo by Romrodphoto/Shutterstock