Home Trailed in Holidays

Don Hogsett, January 30, 2006

Washington — Given a boost by a year-end pickup in car sales, U.S. retail sales improved by 0.7 percent in December, climbing to $357.8 billion, the Commerce Department reported.

Driving the overall gain, car sales shot up for a second straight month, rising by 2.6 percent and building on an even bigger 5.7 percent increase in November. But pull those hefty car sales out of the equation, and sales were more subdued, rising an unexceptional 0.2 percent during the all-important run-up to the holiday.

A big December gainer was the stocking-stuffer channel, as volume in book, music and sporting goods stores climbed by 1.5 percent. But clothing and accessories were a non-starter, unchanged from the month before. Another big gainer for the month was gas station nation, where sales jumped up by 0.9 percent, reflecting higher prices at the pump.

Restaurants and bars were strong, rising by 0.5 percent. And as shoppers continued to click their way to the dotcoms, sales at non-store retailers rose by 0.5 percent.

Sales in furniture outlets and home furnishings stores slipped by 0.1 percent, along with electronics and appliance store retailers.

Retail Sales in December
(by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car Dealers 2.6%
Sporting goods, books 1.5
Gas station 0.9
Building mat./garden 0.6
Non-store retailers 0.5
Restaurants & bars 0.5
Grocery stores 0.3
Health & personal care 0.3
Department stores -1.5%
Furn./home furn. stores -0.1
Electronics & appliances -0.5

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