Consumer Shopping Continues to Surge Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday with 21% Increase in Sales

Dec 16, 2021

Gift cards see their biggest year yet with 114% increase in purchases

Halfway through December, holiday shopping is kicking into high gear as shoppers continue to return to retailers – both online and in person – in droves. While every year sees crowds of last-minute shoppers, this year, despite concerns around the economy and COVID-19, it’s clear that consumers are still spending their hard earned cash to secure presents under the tree.

Between November 24 and December 8, 2021, sales at Square US retailers increased 21% over 2020 sales (which had increased 15% over the same period from 2019 to 2020).

So how is the rest of holiday shopping shaping up? Square dove into the following trends for an inside look.

Brick-and-mortar is here to stay
Following a record breaking year of online shopping, consumers still value the store experience. Specifically, consumers were more likely to shop in-person than online at florists, apparel and accessory shops, household appliance stores, record shops, jewelry and watch merchants, and book stores.

For online shopping, consumers were more likely to shop at cosmetic stores and antique shops instead of in-person.

Saturday is the busiest day for in-person shopping
Consumers might be wondering when is the ideal time to shop in order to avoid crowds, but also for their best chance to stumble upon those tricky, hard to find items.

Unsurprisingly, Saturday followed by Sunday are the busiest days of the week for shopping. Monday is the slowest day for in-person shopping, creating an opportunity for buyers to have a more enjoyable in-store shopping experience that day. Monday is also when consumers are most likely to shop online as they turn to the comfort of their homes following a busy weekend to make their purchases.

Consumers can take these insights into account when mapping out their shopping schedule to shop smarter, not harder.

Gift cards are the new golden ticket
In a year where supply chain issues are making it difficult to get physical items shipped and delivered on time, gift cards continue to be a popular option. In fact, consumers have purchased a record number of gift cards this holiday season: we’ve seen a 114% increase in gift card sales from November through mid-December, compared to the same period of time last year.

Breaking this down even further, physical gift cards are up 33%, while e-gift cards have seen immense growth of 477% since they offer consumers an additional layer of convenience.

Items surge in demand
When looking at items that are seeing exceptional growth this season, there’s a few that stand out. To start, consumers continue to adorn their homes in preparation for holiday gatherings as pine cone wreaths saw 511% growth in sales. With Christmas trees more expensive and harder to find this year, there was more than a 80X increase in flocked Christmas trees - artificial trees with a snow-covered and powdery look.

To further entice shoppers this Black Friday, businesses offered “Friday Mystery” items that are likely surprise items or boxes. While this was offered last year, sales of these exploded with a 30X increase in demand in 2021. Women’s accessories continue to skyrocket with cuff bangles especially trendy this year, seeing a 1,185% increase in sales.

Retailers prepare their storefronts
To handle this influx of shopping, retailers are increasing employee hours to keep up. The average number of hours employees worked at retailers, specifically during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, increased an average 13% compared to last year’s, and an average 30% compared to 2019. Store managers, sales representatives, and customer service employees saw some of the biggest gains in hours.

Some retailers, in particular boutiques, are personalizing the shopping experience by offering drinks and coffees to differentiate themselves. Bartenders and baristas pulled longer hours on average compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year and in 2019.

Data compares payment transactions and employee time cards between November and mid-December 2019, 2020, and 2021 in the U.S. retail sector. All growth rates are compared to the prior year period unless otherwise specified.