Solid Start to Holiday Shopping Season

holiday sales up NRFEager holiday shoppers helped drive retail sales upwards in November, helping boost sales in the first half of the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, November retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from October and increased 4.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. With this news, NRF is still expecting holiday sales to grow 4.1 percent over last holiday season. “A successful Thanksgiving weekend for retailers and diminishing impacts in the Northeast due to Hurricane Sandy put retail sales back on track in November after tepid results in October,” explains NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Though negotiations in Washington over the fiscal cliff could affect consumer confidence and spending in December, overall we are optimistic they we’ll see solid sales growth this holiday season.”

November retail sales, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year. “Stable employment rates, lower gasoline prices and a recovering housing market have all contributed to a holiday shopping season that is on target to meet our original expectations,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz points out. “American consumers are expected to spend cautiously as they monitor the situation in Washington and wrap up their holiday shopping lists.”

Superstorm Sandy definitely impacted retail sales in November. Many retailers reported losses after forced store closures due to the storm, while others, like home and building supply stores, witnessed spikes in sales due to recovery and rebuilding efforts. In fact, those retailers’ sales increased 1.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month.

Other findings from the November retail sales report include:

  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales increased 0.9 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 8.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 2.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 1.0 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 6.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores’ sales decreased 0.9 seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 1.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.5percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 3.0 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 12.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 7.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF defines “holiday sales” as retail industry sales in the months of November and December. Retail industry sales include most traditional retail categories including non-store, auto parts and accessories stores, discounters, department stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants.

NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the U.S. and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs, 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation.