NRF: Strong Finish Drives Holiday Season Sales Gains

After December strength made up for a shaky November, holiday retail sales for 2019 increased 4.1% versus the year-prior period to $730.2 billion, the National Retail Federation reported.

Online and other non-store sales increased 14.6% over the year before to $167.8 billion and factor into the industry total.

NRF forecast in October that 2019 November/December holiday sales would increase between 3.8% and 4.2%. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. November 2019 results got squeezed by the shift of the Sunday after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday into December this year.

In key retail channels during the 2019 holiday season versus the period the year earlier:

  • Furniture and home furnishings store sales advanced 2.6%
  • Health and personal care store sales advanced 1.6%
  • General merchandise stores sales advanced 0.4%
  • Electronics and appliance store sales slipped 2% year-over-year.

Declining numbers in the department store channel hurt general merchandise sales growth. The sporting goods and apparel channels also experienced sales declines during the holidays.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away. We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets. There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”