Holiday Retail Sales Rise 3.8% in Line With NRF Forecasts

Despite a shorter season, severe weather and shaky consumer confidence, holiday sales were in line with projections.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in November and December climbed 3.8 percent to $601.8 billion nationally — just shy of the NRF's forecast of a 3.9 percent increase and $602.1 billion in sales. Non-store holiday sales, an indicator of online sales, grew 9.3 percent to $95.7 billion.

"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." NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

While holiday sales overall were in line with forecasts, they came at the expense of profit margins trimmed by deep discounting. Retailers offered the biggest promotions since the 2008 recession to get shoppers to spend.

"Undoubtedly, some of the increase came at the expense of margin," NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. "Retailers are still stressed, and a long-term promotional environment may actually hurt the bottom line."

The news comes as the Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.2 percent in the month of December, above predictions that sales would remain flat. Year-over-year, December sales climbed 4.2 percent.

In December, retail sales jumped 1.4 percent at Internet retailers, 2 percent for food and beverage stores and 1.8 percent for outlets that sell clothes. Sales also rose 1.6 percent at gas stations to reflect somewhat higher prices at the pump last month, while sales at auto dealerships dropped 1.6 percent.

For more see:
-this National Retail Federation press release
-this Reuters article

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