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Home goods propel retail sales in Dec.

Getting a big assist from strong sales of home-related goods — electronics and home furnishings — December retail sales slipped just 0.1 percent from November levels, a better-than-expected performance, said the Commerce Department.

Although most economists had been forecasting a 1.4 percent decline, following November's steep slide of 3 percent, overall retail sales held their own during the all-important holiday season, dipping by just 0.1 percent to $295.1 billion. On a year-over-year basis, total retail sales were up by 4.1 percent.

Retail trade sales — excluding cars and gasoline — were off slightly more, by 0.3 percent, to $267.6 billion, but were up by 3.8 percent from December 2000.

Santa must have delivered lots of sweaters and socks this season, because the single strongest category was apparel and accessories, where sales jumped up by 2.6 percent, to a seasonally adjusted $14.2 billion, after two straight months of declines.

And for the second month in a row, home-related retailers were among the biggest gainers in all of U.S. retailing. Sales in electronics and appliance stores advanced by 2.0 percent, to a seasonally adjusted $7.9 billion from $7.7 billion the prior month. Sales of furniture and home furnishings retailers climbed by 1.4 percent, to $7.9 billion from $7.8 billion and shot up at an almost double-digit pace, by 9.7 percent, from December 2001's level of $7.2 billion.

Retail Sales in December (by channel)
Home a big winner for second straight month

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Winners
Clothing & accessories +2.6%
Electronics & appliances +2.0
Furniture & home stores +1.4
Health & personal care +0.4
Food & beverage +0.1
Losers
Gas stations -4.2%
Building supplies -1.9
Department stores, chains & discounters -0.6
General merchandise stores -0.5
Auto sales -0.1
Grocery stores -0.1


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