Holiday retail sales surpassed expectations this past season, rising 4.1% to $471.5 billion; slightly higher than the National Retail Federation forecast of 3.8% growth.
According to the NRF, December retail-industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 4.1% over the prior year and decreased .06% from November.
"The right mix of strong promotions, lean inventories and an emphasis on value put retailers in the perfect position to end the year on a high note," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “A better-than-expected holiday season is welcome news for an economic recovery that continues to be sluggish and demonstrates retail’s powerful role as an engine of growth.”
December retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (including nongeneral merchandise categories, such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.1% over November and 6.2% over the prior year.
In particular, the NRF's research shows that consumers stocked up on discretionary gift items in December, including home décor, sporting goods, books and personal-care items. In addition:
• Sales at clothing and clothing-accessories stores increased 0.7% over November and 7.9% over prior year.
• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales increased 0.4% month-to-month and 3.1% over the prior year.
• Electronics store sales decreased 3.9% from the previous month and declined 0.5% over the prior year.
• Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores increased 1% from November and a solid 5.7% over the prior year.
“Though we are seeing evidence that the economy still has a critical hold on consumers’ purchase decisions, this strength in spending could continue into 2012,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.
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