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Americans spent an estimated $531.8 billion in the retail sector in December 2022, according to the Census Bureau’s Monthly Retail Trade Report. That’s about $1,600 per person and $3,800 per household.

That spending followed an estimated $486.2 billion spent in the same sector in November, adjusted for inflation, as the holiday season ramped up.

December was the highest-spending month from 1992 to 2022. November was the second-highest month for each year, with the exception of 2008, 2014, and 2022.

How has Americans’ holiday-season spending changed in recent years?

According to Census data, December retail spending has increased in most years since the 2008 financial crisis, excluding 2018 and 2022. When adjusted for inflation to December 2022 dollars, Americans spent 20% more on retail purchases in December 2022 compared to December 2012, and 61% more than in December 1992.

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However, retail spending throughout the year has also increased while December’s share of all annual spending has declined. In 2022, December accounted for 9.4% of all retail spending over the year, compared with 11.2% in 1992, 10.6% in 2002, and 10.0% in 2012.

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How much did Americans spend at toy stores in 2022?

Americans spent an estimated $2.9 billion at hobby, toy, and game stores in December 2022, according to Census data. That month accounted for 13.4% of all spending at these stores in 2022. (This figure doesn’t capture spending on toys at other types of retailers, including department stores, supermarkets, or electronic stores.)

Historically, how much does retail spending increase toward the end of the calendar year?

Census Bureau data from 1992 to 2022 shows that US retail spending increased, on average, 11% from the third quarter (July through September) to the fourth quarter (October through December) of the calendar year.[1] However, this third to fourth quarter growth has fallen over time, from 15% in 1992 to 6% in 2022. It was lowest in 2008, increasing 3% from Q3 to Q4.

Between 1992 and 2022, monthly average retail spending increased each month from September to December. December retail spending averaged $429.8 billion in constant dollars, which is 19% higher than the November average of $361.2 billion and 28% higher than the average for January through November.

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How much holiday shopping happens online?

E-commerce retail sales[2] grew during the pandemic and have remained higher than pre-pandemic levels. Quarterly Census Bureau data shows that holiday spending (defined in this instance as spending during Q4) has followed the same trend. In the fourth quarter of 2019, around 15% of retail, non-automobile sales occurred online. In 2020, that figure rose to over 20%, and rates have remained at similar levels in 2021 and 2022.

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How does the government track spending?

The Census Bureau conducts the Monthly Retail Trade Survey to provide estimates of retail activity in the United States. The survey covers retail companies that sell merchandise and related services to final customers. A sample of firms is surveyed each month, and voluntary responses are used to produce national estimates, with quality control measures to account for limitations and errors within the methodology.

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Monthly Retail Trade Report

This data isn’t limited to holiday spending. Many factors, such as shifts in the broader economy, can contribute to changes from one month or quarter to the next.


The Census Bureau defines e-commerce sales as sales of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated, over an Internet, mobile device (M-commerce), extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other comparable online system. Payment may or may not be made online.