Retail Holiday Sales Up an Impressive 4.1%

Tim Denman
Editor in Chief
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Holiday retail sales increased 4.1% this holiday season, topping out at $730.2 billion. The numbers reported by the National Retail Federation, exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% over the year before at $167.8 billion and are included in the total.

“Having spent the last week with top retail leaders from around the world at our annual convention, and spending time at the White House with government policymakers and economists, these numbers validate continued optimism for increased investment and opportunity in the retail industry,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is a consumer-driven economy, and by any measure, the consumer has put the economy in a solid position for continued growth. This is a strong finish to the holiday season, and we think it’s a positive indicator of what’s ahead.”

NRF forecast in October that 2019 holiday sales during November and December would increase between 3.8% and 4.2% for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. The forecast called for online sales to increase between 11% and 14% to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion.

The growth rate reported is nearly double the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. Sales during December 2018 were down 0.2% from the year before.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away. We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets. There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”

Retail sales in December 2019 alone increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over November and were up 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

The NRF’s report breaks out individual segments holiday performance as well. Some of the key finding include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.9% year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2.6% year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 1% year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 2% year-over-year.