Holiday shopping expected to hit records amid COVID-19

The pandemic looks poised to deliver one of its biggest and most surprising beneficiaries of the year — the holiday shopping season.

Retail experts are predicting record-shattering spending during the crucial Christmas stretch, citing robust trends so far and the fact that many consumers are sitting on bigger piles of savings after spending most of the year hunkered down.

“We are seeing exceptional growth in spending which has not let up in November and we think it will be a much better holiday than expected,” Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners told The Post.

CGP estimates that retail spending will rise by 5.8 percent “and that’s likely underestimated,” Johnson said. Despite economic headwinds including record US unemployment, the National Retail Federation forecast that holiday sales could rise between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent compared with a 4 percent increase in 2019.

Shoppers are emboldened partly because they have $2.3 trillion in accumulated savings compared with $1.2 trillion a year ago, according to Johnson. This cushion has helped to fuel a spending boom during the final months of the year with the top 10 retailers reporting an average sales increase of 16 percent in the third quarter, CGP reports.

Web-based spending on Thanksgiving reached $5.1 billion, a 21-percent increase over last year, according to Adobe, a data analytics company that tracks visits to US retail web sites. Black Friday spending online is expected to increase to between $8.9 billion and $10.6 billion — a jump between 20 and 42 percent, according to the survey.

Indeed, online spending is expected to grab an unprecedented slice of the holiday pie this year — likely approaching 20 percent versus less than 15 percent last year, according to experts. In the Big Apple, fewer shoppers ventured out to snatch deals in stores, leaving holiday shopping meccas like Macy’s at Herald Square largely free of crowds.

In states like New York where there are more restrictions on public gatherings, there were bigger increases in online shopping — more than triple what they were a year ago — compared with states where there were fewer restrictions, Adobe reports.

In November so far, there have been six days of online spending that exceeded $3 billion compared with three $3 billion days in 2019.

Still, shoppers have not abandoned brick-and-mortar stores.

“People are hesitant to shop and hunt,” which has led to a 50-percent plunge in foot traffic at enclosed malls, according to Naveen Jaggi, president of JLL Retail Advisory Services. “People are going to stores to buy something rather than to shop. About 80 percent of purchases still happen at retail stores.”

There is reason to bet that the momentum will continue in the coming days and weeks, retail watchers say.

Despite the retail industry’s efforts to encourage consumers to do more of their shopping early this year, “many consumers are still holding off on remaining gift purchases until today and Cyber Monday in hopes of scoring the best deals,” Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights said in a statement.

Indeed, 56 percent of consumers still believe that retailers are saving their best discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to the survey.

Shoppers can expect to get the best discounts on appliances and electronics on Black Friday — starting at 20 percent discounts  — with Apple watches, Hewlett Packard laptops, Samsung 4K televisions and Roku Stick+ among the hottest items, according to Adobe.

In the toy category, Lego sets, Barbie dolls, scooters and video games, including NBA 2K21, Madden NFL 21 and Just Dance 2021 are the biggest sellers.

Consumers continue to invest in all things home related, with retailers including Home Depot, BestBuy and Walmart and Target being among the biggest beneficiaries of the trend.

“We expect home improvement to be a big gainer this season,” Jaggi said.