Market Overview

Holiday Retail Sales Increased 5.5 Percent in 2017, Exceeding NRF Forecast and Showing Strongest Gain Since Great Recession


Holiday sales during November and December increased 5.5 percent over
the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion as growing wages, stronger
employment and higher confidence led consumers to spend more than had
been expected, the National Retail Federation said today. The number,
which excludes restaurants, automobile dealers and gasoline stations,
includes $138.4 billion in online and other non-store sales, which were
up 11.5 percent over the year before.

The results exceeded NRF's
forecast of between $678.75 billion and $682 billion
, which would
have been an increase of between 3.6 and 4 percent, and marked the
largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010
after the end of the Great Recession. NRF had forecast that non-store
sales, which include online sales, would grow between 11 and 15 percent
to between $137.7 billion and $142.6 billion.

December alone was up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from November and
up 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

"We knew going in that retailers were going to have a good holiday
season but the results are even better than anything we could have hoped
for, especially given the misleading headlines of the past year," NRF
President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Whether they shopped in-store,
online or on their phones, consumers were in the mood to spend, and
retailers were there to offer them good value for their money. With this
as a starting point and tax cuts putting more money into consumers'
pockets, we are confident that retailers will have a very good year

"Retail has proven once again that it is the most nimble industry in the
economy, able to transform and reinvent itself to meet always-changing
consumer demands," Shay said. "Retail today doesn't look like retail 10
years ago and it certainly won't look the same in another 10 years. But
retail is retail, and will always be here to serve its customers."

With unemployment at a 17-year low, a pickup in income, strong consumer
confidence and a rising stock market, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz
said a number of factors provided a strong base for spending during the
holidays. 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 percent
year-over-year in October and November, and consumers were feeling
better about using their credit cards, with outstanding balances up 6
percent year-over-year.

"The economy was in great shape going into the holiday season, and
retailers had the right mix of inventory, pricing and staffing to help
them connect with shoppers very efficiently," Kleinhenz said. "Strong
employment and more money in consumers' pockets along with the news of
tax cuts clearly helped with the pace of shopping. The market conditions
were right, retailers were doing what they know how to do, and it all
worked. We think the willingness to spend and growing purchasing power
seen during the holidays will be key drivers of the 2018 economy."

NRF's numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which
reported today that overall December sales – including automobiles,
gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from
November and 5.4 percent year-over-year.

There were increases in every retail category except sporting goods
during the holiday season, which NRF defines as November 1 through
December 31. Specifics from key retail sectors during November and
December combined include:

  • Building materials and supplies stores increased 8.1 percent
    unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores increased 7.5 percent unadjusted
  • Electronics and appliance stores increased 6.7 percent unadjusted
  • General merchandise stores increased 4.3 percent unadjusted
  • Clothing and accessories stores increased 2.7 percent unadjusted
  • Health and personal care stores increased 2.2 percent unadjusted
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF is the world's largest retail trade association, representing
discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main
Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet
retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is
the nation's largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four
U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to
annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation's economy.


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