Restaurants and bars had the highest year-over-year holiday sales gain.
Total holiday sales surpassed more than $900 billion in 2021.
Core retail sales for the November/December holiday season, including e-commerce, rose by 13% year-over-year to $757 billion, according to a CBRE report. Sales exceeded expectations despite diminishing consumer confidence and the COVID-19 omicron variant. (Core sales excludes auto, gas and food services & drinking places.) Holiday sales by nonstore or e-commerce retailers rose by 10% year-over-year to $173 billion.
Total retail sales, which include auto, gas and food/beverage sales, increased by 16% to $903 billion. Almost all retail categories had sales gains year-over-year and from 2019. Restaurants and bars had the highest year-over-year gain, rising 39% to $145 billion. Clothing and accessory stores came in second, with a sales gain of approximately 33%.
Black Friday weekend brick-and-mortar retail foot traffic was below pre-pandemic 2019 levels, but showed a significant gain in the weeks prior to Black Friday. As the National Retail Federation and others have noted, this suggests that consumers began their holiday shopping earlier than usual in 2021.
Retail visits began to increase on October 11, reaching weekly levels not seen since the summer season, CBRE noted. In addition, both the weeks leading up to and after Thanksgiving had an increased amount of foot traffic compared with 2019.
A portion of 2021 holiday sales gains can be attributed to rising inflation. The Consumer Price Index rose by more than 7% in October and remained elevated through December.
Still, the increase in foot traffic bodes well for retail performance in 2022, the report said. At the same time, CBRE warned that retail sales could be negatively impacted by the omicron variant in the traditionally slower months of January and February.