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Holiday Season Off to Good Start as Retail Still Gaining

Holiday Season Off to Good Start as Retail Still Gaining

Dec. 17, 2020
“With retail sales up 8.8% versus November 2019, we still expect a strong holiday season compared with last year,” said National Retail Federation.

Although November sales fell compared to October sales, the numbers were moving in the right direction.

The U.S. Census Bureau said on December 16 that that overall retail sales in November were down 1.1% seasonally adjusted from October but up 4.1% year-over-year.

“Consumers held back on spending in November as virus rates spiked, states imposed retail restrictions and congressional stimulus discussions were gridlocked,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said. “While consumers have been bolstered by increases in disposable income and savings, it’s clear that additional fiscal stimulus from Congress is needed and we are hopeful it will be passed soon as we enter the final stretch of the holiday season. With retail sales up 8.8% versus November 2019, we still expect a strong holiday season compared with last year.”

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed November was down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from October but up 8.8% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with a decrease of 0.1% month-over-month and an increase of 10.5% year-over-year in October.

NRF’s numbers were up 10.8% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average. “The month-over-month decline isn’t surprising because some spending was pulled forward into October by campaigns encouraging consumers to shop early and shop safe,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite that, as we go into the final weeks of 2020, year-over-year trends show spending is holding up well regardless of month-to-month fluctuations. Nonetheless, we have to remember the remainder of the holiday season depends critically on the virus. We are optimistic, but spending could shift into a lower gear if the virus continues to spread.”   November saw year-over-year gains in seven out of nine retail categories, led by double-digit increases for online sales, building materials and sporting goods stores. Specifics from key retail sectors during November include:

  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 1.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 8.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 17.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • ·Online and other non-store sales were up 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 30% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 14% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 0.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 2.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were down 1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 0.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  •  Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 9.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
  •  Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 6.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 19.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF has forecast that holiday sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.  Although the group defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31, research shows 42% of consumers started holiday shopping sooner than usual this year  Consumers had about half their holiday shopping left to do as of Thanksgiving weekend.

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