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2016 holiday retail sales increased 4%

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WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation is out with figures showing that holiday sales reached $658.3 billion in November and December, a 4% increase from the previous year and surpassing the NRF’s preseason forecast for $655.8 billion in holiday spending.

The number includes $122.9 billion in online (dubbed non-store sales by NRF) sales. That represents a 12.6% increase from the previous year.

The NRF tally excludes spending on automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future,” commented NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay. “Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season, and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead.”

Shay continued: “There has been a lot of talk about online versus in-store retail in the past few months, but that comes from people who don’t realize that online and retail today are the same thing. In the new distributed commerce world that allows consumers to buy any product, anytime, anywhere, it really doesn’t matter whether a customer shops in a company’s store or on its website or mobile app. It’s all retail. Today’s retailers sell to shoppers any way they want to buy.”

Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, noted that average hourly earnings were up this year compared to 2015, as the job market exhibited strength.

“The economy was clearly stronger in the fall, and consumers were more active during the holiday season than they had been earlier in the year,” Kleinhenz pointed out. “Economic indicators were up, retailers offered great deals, confidence improved and all of that empowered consumers to spend more.”

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the Commerce Department, which announced that overall December sales — including automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from November and 4.4% unadjusted year over year.

Data points released by NRF include:

  • Sales at general merchandise storesdeclined 1.5% unadjusted year over year.
  • Sales at health and personal care storesincreased 6.7%.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories storesincreased 2.5%.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales decreased 2.3%.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales rose 4.8%.
  • Sales at department stores were down 7% this year on an unadjusted basis.

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