NRF: Holiday Sales Lower Than Expected

The National Retail Federation blamed lower than expected holiday sales gains on “clearly avoidable actions by the government.”

NRF reported that 2018 holiday period retail sales grew a less-than-expected 2.9% over the 2017 timeframe to $707.5 billion, referencing U.S. Department of Commerce data. The Commerce Department sales data release came a month later than scheduled because of the recent government shutdown.

The 2.9% figure, which exclude results from automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, fell short of NRF’s forecast for November 1 through December 31 holiday sales growth between 4.3% and 4.8%.

NRF noted that the $707.5 billion total holiday sales included $146.8 billion in online and other non-store sales, which grew 11.5% over 2017. NRF had forecast that retail non-store sector sales would grow between 11% and 15%.

November total retail sales gained 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year, but December revenues grew only 0.9% year-over-year, slipping 1.5% seasonally adjusted from November.

“All signs during the holidays seemed to show that consumers remained confident about the economy,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “However, it appears that worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behavior more than we expected. There’s also a question of whether the government shutdown and resulting delay in collecting data might have made the results less reliable. It’s very disappointing that clearly avoidable actions by the government influenced consumer confidence and unnecessarily depressed December retail sales.”