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NRF Notes Strong Holiday Sales and Interesting Category Trends

The National Retailer Federation (NRF) announced holiday sales figures (including both traditional retailers and ecommerce merchants) and also reported on annual sales growth of some key categories released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week that may hold some surprise at first glance.

The NRF said December retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 4.6 percent year-over-year. The retail trade organization also said retail sales for the holiday season (November and December) increased 3.8% to $601.8 billion, inline with its expectations – NRF had projected a 3.9% increase to $602 billion. It also said non-store holiday sales, which is an indicator of online and ecommerce sales, grew 9.3 percent to $95.7 billion.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said, “Despite facing a truncated holiday season, severe weather, and shaky consumer confidence, retailers rose to the challenge and executed their strategies with proven success. 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.”

The NRF also commented on December retail sales released on Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, which showed an increase of 4.1% adjusted year-over-year. Those figures include categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said that while economic and policy uncertainties remain, the economy seems set for steady growth in the New Year. However, he added, “Undoubtedly, some of the increase came at the expense of margin. Retailers are still stressed and a long-term promotional environment may actually hurt the bottom line. As consumer confidence grows, there will be less need for retailers to heavily promote and discount their offerings.”

Other findings from the December retail sales report included:

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales increased 4.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales increased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 1.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 5.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

General merchandise stores’ sales were flat unadjusted year-over-year.

Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 5.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.