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Robot vacuums, athleisure, Slime, scent and smart home devices drove Holiday shopping

Small home appliances and prestige beauty were the top performing general merchandise categories for the US Holiday season, a season that ended on a particularly strong note, according to a new report from the NPD Group.

And while fashion wasn’t in either of the top two spots, within apparel, the women’s segment saw the largest dollar growth, driven by dresses, sweats/active bottoms, and outerwear.

The spending focus in athletic footwear was on sport leisure/sport lifestyle offerings.

Meanwhile in toys, playset dolls and collectibles drove the most dollar gains and consumer tech’s big winners were home automation (driven by security and monitoring), and smart entry, as well as stereo headphones, and mobile power.

And the top two segments? Fragrance juices led dollar gains in prestige beauty, followed by make-up, while the season’s hot small home appliance performance was driven by sales of cookers (more specifically, multi-cookers), air fryers, speciality cleaning (robotic vacuums in particular), and oralcare appliances.

NPD said the slime craze continues to put office supplies on the map beyond the back-to-school season, with big dollar sales growth in glues and adhesives.

It all paints a picture of a consumer wearing athleisure, using ‘smart’ and robotic appliances at home, cooking healthier foods, making their homes more secure, looking after their teeth and indulging themselves on the beauty front. Not bad. Not bad at all.

“This Holiday season saw an eclectic mix of a few hot products selling off shelves, some staple gift items, lots of self-gifting, and seasonal essentials,” said lead NPD analyst Marshal Cohen. “Even with such an assortment, the season’s hot Holiday sellers send a clear message of an increased emphasis on comfort, home, and generally enhancing one’s lifestyle.”

They also send a clear message about just how much lifestyles have changed in recent years with many of the items unlikely to have figured highly (or even to have existed) not so long ago.

And as lifestyles changed, did Holiday shopping behaviour change too? It certainly did.

Not only was there a late shop surge in the days before Christmas but bargain-consciousness also drove the days after Christmas, so the week from December 24-30 was “a season standout with a 15% increase over the same week in 2016 across the key general merchandise categories,” NPD said.

This helped “to secure an overall positive finish to the season [as] almost every industry tracked saw growth during the ninth and final week of the season, with Toys, Small Home Appliances, and Prestige Beauty leading the way.”

“Despite consumers’ plans to get their Holiday shopping done on the earlier side, the extra week and weekend of shopping brought out the procrastinators in many of us,” Cohen said. “The bigger picture shows that our shopping seasons are shifting, and traditional start and end-points are blurring more than ever. Part of this shift will make it important for retail to keep an eye on the growing importance of January as part of their peak selling season.”

And product-wise, the top-performing items during the final week were menswear, driven by sweats/active bottoms and tops; womenswear driven by outerwear and sleepwear; fragrance juices again; toys for infants, toddlers and pre-school; and home environment appliances, especially heaters.

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