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US holiday retail sales grew 2.9% to $707.5 bn in 2018

Feb '19
US holiday retail sales grew 2.9% to $707.5 bn in 2018
Holiday retail sales during 2018 in US grew a lower-than-expected 2.9 per cent over the same period in 2017 to $707.5 billion, said the National Retail Federation (NRF). The numbers fell short of NRF’s forecast last fall that holiday sales from November 1 through December 31 would grow between 4.3-4.8 per cent to between $717.45-$720.89 billion.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau, which said that overall December sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants were down 1.2 per cent seasonally adjusted from November but up 2.3 per cent unadjusted year-over-year. November – the first half of the holiday season – grew 5.1 per cent unadjusted year-over-year. But December was up only 0.9 per cent year-over-year and down 1.5 per cent seasonally adjusted from November. NRF did not count October as part of the holiday season, but much holiday shopping had shifted earlier, and October was up 5.7 per cent year-over-year. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 0.7 per cent over the same period a year ago.

The total retail sales include $146.8 billion in online and other non-store sales, which grew 11.5 per cent over 2017. Sales of clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 4.2 per cent at $61.7 billion.

“The numbers are truly a surprise and in contradiction to the consumer spending trends we were seeing, especially after such strong October and November spending,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “The combination of financial market volatility, the government shutdown and trade tensions created a trifecta of anxiety and uncertainty impacting spending and might also have misaligned the seasonal adjustment factors used in reporting data. This is an incomplete story and we will be in a better position to judge the reliability of the results when the government revises its 2018 data in the coming months.”

“All signs during the holidays seemed to show that consumers remained confident about the economy,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “However, it appears that worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behaviour more than we expected. There’s also a question of whether the government shutdown and resulting delay in collecting data might have made the results less reliable. It’s very disappointing that clearly avoidable actions by the government influenced consumer confidence and unnecessarily depressed December retail sales.”

NRF is forecasting that retail sales during 2019 will increase between 3.8-4.4 per cent to more than $3.8 trillion. (PC)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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