2023 US Holiday Sales Show a Complicated Economy

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Is holiday spending breaking records or masking economic troubles? What’s the outlook for shopping trends? How are retailers being impacted?

US holiday sales over Thanksgiving topped $10 billion online, but growth lags behind previous years. Shoppers are flocking to discount retailers, leaving traditional stores in the cold. “Buy now, pay later” programs are gaining traction, offering relief and risks for strained consumers.

Continue reading to learn what the holiday sales numbers say about the US economy.

Holiday Shopping in America

US holiday shoppers are spending at near-record levels this year, topping $10 billion in online sales over Thanksgiving weekend alone. But shifting payment preferences and economic headwinds could dampen retailers’ celebratory mood.


Though US holiday sales comprise a modest part of the American economy, they contribute to total consumer spending, which fuels over two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. Experts say holiday spending reflects shoppers’ mindset and is an indicator of retail sector health.

The National Retail Federation has predicted a modest 3% to 4% uptick in holiday sales for 2023—a significant drop from last season’s 9% surge. A November Conference Board survey further indicates that Americans, while still buying, are feeling more fiscally cautious.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Results

Experts say that initial Black Friday and Cyber Monday results offer retailers a reason for optimism, but also signal a shift in retail landscapes. 

Black Friday set online shopping records, with spending climbing 7.5% from 2022 to reach a new high of $9.8 billion (alternate estimates suggest it hit $16.4 billion). Cyber Monday followed suit with a 9.6% increase in spending—roughly $12.4 billion.

But there’s more to the story. Experts predict a dampening holiday season as dollar sales growth is set to decline from last year’s 6% to 3.3% in 2023. This not only falls below the pre-pandemic average of 3.9%, but is a stark contrast to the vigorous growth of previous years.

Key Factors Impacting Consumer Spending

Economists say Americans are tightening their budgets and looking for holiday bargains due to ongoing economic pressures: Home prices are at an all-time high, inflation continues to outpace the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, credit card debt has hit record levels, student loan relief has ended, and rents are on the rise. 

The budget tightening is also evident in where Americans are choosing to shop. Third-quarter sales reveal a shift in shopping trends, with more Americans favoring cheaper retail options over leading stores.

  • Traditional retail giants like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Target suffered losses.
  • TJX Companies, Burlington, and Ross saw a surge in comparable store sales.

However, some economists suggest that consumers’ holiday spending slowdown isn’t as ominous as it may seem. They contend that it’s a typical response in an economic environment where inflation rates are easing and retail sectors such as toys, electronics, and apparel are showing signs of deflation. 

Although inflation dropped from 7.7% in 2022 to 3.2% in October, alleviating pressure on consumers, many have become accustomed to spending less and are now choosing to save their money.

Looking Ahead

Experts say that as holiday spending habits evolve, retailers are looking for ways to adapt and target budget-minded shoppers: 

2023 US Holiday Sales Show a Complicated Economy

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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