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NRF: Holiday retail sales up 4.1%, surpassing expectations

Washington- Retailers' 2011 holiday sales beat expectations, even if only slightly, rising 4.1% percent to $471.5 billion, versus the National Retail Federation's original 3.8% growth target.

More specifically, December retail industry sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, were up 4.1% unadjusted year-over-year and decreased 0.06% seasonally adjusted from November.

"The right mix of strong promotions, lean inventories and an emphasis on value put retailers in the perfect position to end the year on a high note," said NRF president and ceo Matthew Shay. "A better-than-expected holiday season is welcome news for an economic recovery that continues to be sluggish, and demonstrates retail's powerful role as an engine of growth."
December retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales, which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants, increased 0.1% seasonally adjusted over November and 6.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

"In a matchup between the final two months of 2011 November clearly wins, but in the end retailers' promotions struck the right chord for budget-focused holiday shoppers," said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. "Though we are seeing evidence that the economy still has a critical hold on consumers' purchase decisions, this strength in spending could continue into 2012."

NRF described the 2011 holiday selling season as one "full of peaks and valleys."

As expected, consumers stocked up on discretionary gift items in December, including home décor, sporting goods, books and personal care items. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores increased 1.0% seasonally adjusted from November and "a solid" 5.7% unadjusted year-over-year, NRF noted.

Despite a warmer-than-usual month, apparel sales performed extremely well. Though electronics and appliance stores saw growth in November, the shift in spending put a damper on those stores' December sales.

 

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