Retail up 1.2% in Dec., with no help from home

Don Hogsett, Carole Sloan, January 20, 2003

Propelled by a big jump in automobile sales, retail sales in December moved up by 1.2 percent over November levels, and climbed by 4.6 percent from December 2001, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $308 billion.

For all of last year, the agency reported, retail sales advanced by 3.4 percent.

The biggest gains on a month-over-month basis was auto sales, which rose by 5.5 percent from November levels, and non-store retailers, which advanced by 3.0 percent.

Breaking out the numbers on a year-over-year basis, gas stations recorded the biggest increase in 2002, up 16.6 percent, reflecting surging gasoline prices. In an apparent vindication of the model, non-store retailers were up by 13.8 percent from 2001 levels, as gains in internet retailing far more than offset the steady erosion of the catalog business.

Retail trade sales increased advanced by 1.3 percent over November levels, to an annualized rate of $279 billion, and climbed by 4.7 percent above December 2001.

Apart from solid increases for car dealers and non-store formats, results were mixed, with as many losers as gainers, when measured against November results.

As the holiday cheer got spread around, restaurants and bars strongly outperformed traditional retailer formats, up by 1.1 percent, compared with smaller gains of 0.8 percent for apparel retailers; and 0.6 percent for electronics and appliance retailers. Sales at home furnishings and furniture stores were virtually flat.

Retail Sales in December (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car dealers +5.5%
Non-store retailers +3.0
Restaurants & bars +1.1
Clothing & accessories +0.8
Gas stations +0.7
Electronics & appliances +0.6
Health & personal care +0.1
Furniture & home furnishings +0.0
Building materials & garden supplies -1.8
Grocery stores -1.4
Food & beverage stores -1.0

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