Online Sales Drive Holiday Growth; Grocery Is 2nd Best

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Online Sales Drive Holiday Growth; Grocery Is 2nd Best

By Abby Kleckler - 01/16/2020
Online Sales Drive Holiday Growth, Grocery Is 2nd Best

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has reported its holiday spending numbers: Sales during November and December 2019 grew 4.1% year-over-year, to $730.2 billion. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

This positive spending was largely led by online and other nonstore sales, which increased 14.6% over the same period in 2018. The next largest retail sector for growth was grocery and beverage stores, which were up 2.9% year-over-year.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at Washington, D.C.-based NRF. “Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away. We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets. There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”

The 4.1% growth rate reported this year is 2% higher than the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season.

U.S. Census Bureau data — including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants — shows that overall sales were up 5.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

December sales saw a boost this season, with the Sunday after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday falling in the final month of the year instead of in November. Retail sales in December 2019 increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over November, and were up 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

Health and personal care store stales were also up, 1.6% year-over-year. Three retail segments, however, saw declines: Sporting goods stores were down 0.4%; clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 1.6%; and electronics and appliance stores were down 2% year-over-year.