US 2018 Holiday Season Review and 2019 Preview

Spending Strength Across Ecommerce and Traditional Retail, but Uncertainty Looms Ahead

Executive Summary

The 2018 holiday season was one of the best in recent years, with strong growth rates posted both online and at brick-and-mortar on the back of a robust consumer economy. But the conditions might not be as favorable as we look ahead to the 2019 holidays.

  • How much did retail spending increase during the 2018 holiday season? Total retail spending was up 5.4% to $998.32 billion, falling just shy of our earlier forecast of $1.002 trillion, with the shortfall coming from the unexpected drop in gas prices to end the year. Traditional retail was very strong, with brick-and-mortar sales rising 3.9% to $874.42 billion and ecommerce soaring 16.7% to $123.90 billion.
  • How much was spent online on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Cyber Monday was the heaviest online spending day in history, with a reported $7.87 billion. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Black Friday both continue to experience significantly above-average growth rates as they become more important shopping days for ecommerce.
  • What is the forecast for holiday sales in 2019? We expect that the 2019 holiday season will see healthy US retail spending growth of 3.7% to $1.035 trillion. However, with several economic factors now weighing on the consumer economy, this growth rate represents a noticeable deceleration vs. 2018.
  • Which retailers were the winners and losers of the 2018 holiday season? Amazon, Walmart and Target were among the big retailers that drove strong sales increases during the holidays to finish off 2018 on a high note. Meanwhile, several department stores and mall anchors like JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Kohl’s struggled to capture the same momentum.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report includes a review of the US 2018 holiday season and an early preview of the 2019 holidays, including our latest US retail and ecommerce spending forecast.

KEY STAT: Cyber Monday was the top spending day of the 2018 holiday season, with $7.87 billion, but Thanksgiving surprised at No. 3 with $3.68 billion.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Holiday 2018 Review: Strong Consumer Economy Drives Strength Across Retail Channels
  3. Holiday 2019 Preview: Risk Factors Abound
  1. Looking Ahead to the 2019 Holiday Season: Key Takeaways for Retailers
  2. eMarketer Interviews
  3. Read Next
  1. Sources
  2. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Katherine Cullen
National Retail Federation
Director, Retail and Consumer Insights
Interviewed January 22, 2019
Brian Field
Senior Director, Retail Consulting
Interviewed January 18, 2019
Satish Jindel
Interviewed January 29, 2019
Ed Kennedy
Senior Director, Commerce
Interviewed January 22, 2019
Michael Klein
Director, Industry Strategy and Marketing, Retail, Travel and CPG
Interviewed January 23, 2019

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Andrew Lipsman


Rebecca Chadwick
Senior Researcher
Cindy Liu
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Karin von Abrams
Principal Analyst
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst