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‘Tis the Season of Holiday Shopping

Fri Dec 21 2018
Written by: Rachel Butler, International Trade Macro Analysis Branch, Economic Indicators Division
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With the holiday shopping season wrapping up, major retail sales events are taking place across the country. Beginning with the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales extend beyond the Christmas season, and their economic impact goes beyond increased retail sales. Ahead of these big shopping days, shippers and importers are hard at work ensuring that consumers’ favorite products make it to store shelves on time at brick and mortar stores, and to distribution centers for online fulfillments.

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International trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau helps to provide a clearer picture of economic activity during the holiday shopping season.   

Historical data displayed in the graph below shows that imports of consumer goods tend to surge each year between August and October. In 2017, the highest growth occurred between September and October, when consumer goods imports increased approximately 9 percent.

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    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Indicators Division

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What products drive this increase? A deeper dive into the data shows that the following product categories were among those with the largest import growth between September and October:

  • Cell phones and other household goods.
  • Toys, games and sporting equipment.
  • Televisions and video equipment.

Combined, these three product groups accounted for nearly one-third of total consumer goods imports in October.

To learn more about the data for this holiday season as well as more international trade data, visit <>.  Sign up to receive information on future data releases by registering for embargo access at

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