New data from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) shows 2017 holiday spending rose dramatically over the previous year, a surprisingly positive conclusion to a year marked by widespread store closings and retail bankruptcies.
The ICSC reported that consumers spent an average of $841.50 on holiday items this past season—a whopping increase from the $711 spent in 2016.
The survey was released on the heels of a rash of early reports of solid holiday sales results from retailers including Target, Nordstrom and Kohl’s. Target’s comparable sales, for example, grew 3.4% in the November/December period, driven in large part by digital. And Kohl’s—which has posted profit declines in 18 of the past 24 quarters—revealed that during the holidays, same-stores sales increased 7% vs. the year prior.
One worry dogging retailers through much of the year was that consumers have been conditioned to demand aggressive discounts before they part with cash. But the pressure for discounts seemed to ease a bit this year. As previously reported in eMarketer Retail, pricing firm Market Track found lower overall promotional levels as of late November.
“In previous years, holiday sales rose overall despite heavy discounting—not because of it,” said eMarketer retail analyst Yory Wurmser. “Consumers adapted to competitive discounts and waited for prices to come down, which if anything lowered revenues for the industry, if perhaps helping some individual retailers.”
“This year, consumer confidence was strong enough to boost spending strongly," he added. "In a virtuous cycle, retailers also felt less need to increase their discounts. The increased spending reflects overall economic conditions more than retailer discounts.”