Holiday Retail Sales Up 3.8%; Appliance Stores Down in December
Jan 15, 2014
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U.S. Census Bureau data showed that adjusted December retail sales—not including cars, gas stations, and restaurants—were $384,308 million, up from $369,390 million in December 2012. Unadjusted retail sales were $441,000 million, up from $422,781 million in December 2012.

National Retail Federation estimates put the adjusted December increase at 0.4%, and the unadjusted increase at 4.6%. NRF said that, despite some severe winter weather in December, retail sales remained on-track.

NRF said total holiday season retail sales (November and December) were up 3.8% to $601.8 billion, which nearly matched NRF’s forecast for the season of a 3.9% gain and to $602.1 billion. The organization said non-store holiday sales, an indicator of online and e-commerce sales, were up 9.3% to $95.7 billion.

“Despite facing a truncated holiday season, severe weather, and shaky consumer confidence, retailers rose to the challenge and executed their strategies with proven success,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Today’s holiday sales numbers are a testament to a resilient industry that knows what their customers want, when they want it and how they want to get it. Considering that retail sales are an important barometer when measuring the overall health of our national economy, this report provides a level of true optimism that the recovery is picking up steam, and once again, retail leads the way.”

"Retail sales have been volatile all year and the holiday shopping season was no exception,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Solid job growth in the months of October and November led to a more-confident consumer and healthy holiday shopping season for many retailers. While economic and policy uncertainties remain, the economy seems set for steady growth in the New Year.”

He added that some of the sales increase undoubtedly came at the expense of margin. "Retailers are still stressed and a long-term promotional environment may actually hurt the bottom line,” said Kleinhenz. “As consumer confidence grows, there will be less need for retailers to heavily promote and discount their offerings.”

Electronics and appliance stores adjusted sales showed a 1.4% decrease in December 2013: to $8,364, from $8,482 in December 2012. Adjusted sales in December 2013 were down 2.5% from November 2013. Unadjusted sales were $12,856 million, from $13,058 million in December 2012.

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