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NRF says holidays ended on high note with 1.1% increase

Washington – The National Retail Federation called retailers’ collective 1.1% gain in sales to $446.8 billion in November and December “the best Christmas gift of all,” considering the organization had originally projected a 1% decline.

“After a year that saw holiday sales decrease by 3.4%, retailers bounced back in 2009,” noted the NRF, which added that retail industry sales -- excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants -- for December rose 2.3% unadjusted year-over-year and fell just 0.5% seasonally adjusted from November.

"With an eye on managing inventory and maintaining lower price points, retailers did a tremendous job of planning for the holiday season," said Rosalind Wells, NRF chief economist. "While the consumer appears to be spending again, double digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum."

Nonetheless, aspects of the home business suffered during the two-month stretch over the holidays. The weak housing market continued to impact the sale of home furnishings in December with sales of furniture and home furnishing stores decreasing 3.5% though increasing a slight 0.3% from the previous month.

Better off were other categories, especially apparel, which was “a big driver for retailers” as clothing and clothing accessories stores for December increased 7.0% year-over-year and dipped 0.6% from November. Sporting goods, hobby, and book & music stores also performed well with December sales increasing 3.9% from last year and up 1.6% month-to-month. Health and personal care stores continue to be a bright spot in retail with year-over-year December sales increasing 4.8% and monthly gains of 0.8%.

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