NRF: Holiday Sales Exceed Expectations

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Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased by 0.3% in December after spiking by an upwardly revised 1.4% in November.

The retail sales numbers reflect spending at both online and bricks-and-mortar stores and restaurants, but doesn't include sales of automobiles.

Holiday sales rose to $691.9 billion in November and December, marking a 5.5 percent increase from the year before, according to the National Retail Federation. Still, tepid results from department stores and apparel retailers show that not every company will benefit from more shopper spending.

Sales of furniture grew by 0.7% to $10.33bn, while those of building materials increased by 1.2% to hit $32.98bn.

The so-called retail sales control group grew by 0.3% on the month, which was one tenth of a percentage point less than anticipated. The season came on the heels of the three strongest monthly year-over-year gains for retail sales since the fourth quarter of 2014, nominal disposable personal income was up a combined 3.5% year-over-year in October and November, and consumers were feeling better about using their credit cards, with outstanding balances up 6% year-over-year. Nonstore Retailers were up 12.7% from December 2016, while Building Materials and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 9.9% from previous year. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

As a result, certain retail segments were particularly strong in December. It's a key gauge for the economy, which derives about two-thirds of its output from consumer spending.

"We see a very healthy consumer, and we see a lot of signs of the strength of that consumer", Mr. Andrus said. "But retail is retail, and will always be here to serve its customers". The NRF had forecast a strong season but it only anticipated sales growth of 3.6 and 4 percent. The industry has been under pressure as shoppers can buy sporting goods in big box stores and online. stock is down roughly 43 percent since December 2016. Ellison predicted a rebound in apparel and other categories. Sales at sporting goods and hobby stores fell by 1.6 percent, the largest decline seen since November 2016.

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