Commerce Department: E-Commerce Drives December Retail Sales Gains

December retail sales gained substantially from November and, particularly, year over year, according to the United States Department of Commerce, boosted by e-commerce but restrained by department and electronics store results.

According to the department’s Census Bureau Division of Economic Indicators, total December retail and food services sales, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences but not for price changes, gained 0.6% versus November and 4.1% versus the same month in 2015. December retail trade sales gained 0.8% from November and 4.3% from the month a year earlier as nonstore retail revenues advanced 13.2% from December 2015.

On an unadjusted basis year over year, total December retail and food service sales increased 3.3% to $541.2 billion while retail trade sales increased 2.9% to $483.8 billion. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores gained 3.8% on the unadjusted basis from December 2015, while those for electronics and appliance stores slipped 3.2%. Year over year, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealer sales increased 5.9% as did those at grocery stores, up 2.3%, health and personal care stores, up 7.4%, clothing and clothing accessories stores, up 0.8%, sporting goods, hobby book and music stores, up 2.6% and miscellaneous store retailers, up 5.2% compared with December 2015. On an unadjusted basis sales at nonstore retailers gained 11.4% from December the year before.

Sales at general merchandise stores, representing multi-department retailers, slipped 0.8% as department store sales tumbled 5.6% from the year-previous December, the Commerce Department reported. Department store sales represented just under a quarter of those for the general merchandise category.