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NRF: Holiday Sales Made Grudging Gains

The National Retail Federation characterized the holiday season as healthy if not up to its forecast, noting that economic uncertainties sent a cautious consumer to stores. December retail sales excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants increased 0.8% seasonally adjusted from November, NRF noted, citing United States Department of Commerce statistics, and increased 2.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

Total holiday retail sales gained 3%, below NRF’s projected forecast of 4.1%, to $579.8 billion. What the organizations categorizes as non-store holiday sales, including Internet-based transactions, grew 11.1%. NRF affiliate forecasted a 12% advance in non-store sales for the months of November and December.

“For over six months, we’ve been saying that the fiscal cliff and economic uncertainty could impact holiday sales,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.  “As the number shows, these issues had a visible impact on consumer spending this holiday season. We can’t expect consumers to continue to carry the burden of growing our economy. Washington must put political differences aside and do what it takes to get our country growing again and Americans back to work.”

As tabulated by the Commerce Department, December figures for retail and food services sales, which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 4.7% adjusted year-over-year.

“While non-store retail sales increased a hearty 11% this December, total December sales could not make up for shortfalls in certain categories like electronics,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Heading into 2013, consumers could continue to think twice about their discretionary purchases as they face decreases in their paychecks and other concerns with their household budgets.”

Other findings from the December retail sales report include:

  • Furniture and home furnishing store sales advanced 1.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care store sales increased 1.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and grew 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance store sales decreased 0.6% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and slipped 0.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise store sales remained unchanged seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 3.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessories store sales gained 1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 2.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales increased 0.6% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and gained 4.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Nonstore retailer sales advanced 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 9.6% unadjusted year-over-year.