WASHINGTON — Retail sales in November and December rose 4% from a year earlier to $658.3 billion as consumers spent more freely than expected during the holiday period, according to the National Retail Federation. Non-store sales increased 12.6% to $122.9 billion. NRF’s figures exclude spending on automobiles, gasoline and restaurant meals.
“These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future,” remarked Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and chief executive officer. “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.”
The NRF numbers are based on data from the Commerce Department, which reported that December sales — including automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — were up 0.6% from November on a seasonally adjusted basis. While the e-commerce data for retail sales from the Commerce Department is only available on a quarterly basis, NRF expects e-commerce sales during the holiday season to be on par with recent quarterly releases showing year-on-year growth of 16%.
“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,” declared Shay. “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.”
Data points released by NRF include:
• Sales at general merchandise stores declined 1.5% unadjusted year over year.
• Sales at health and personal care stores increased 6.7%.
• Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 2.5%.
• Electronics and appliances stores’ sales declined 2.3%.
• Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales rose 4.8%.
• Sales at department stores were down 7% this year.