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NRF says 2019 holiday sales were up 4.1%

Retail sales in December 2019 alone increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over November and were up 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

Holiday retail sales during 2019 grew 4.1% over the same period in 2018 to $730.2 billion, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% over the year before at $167.8 billion and are included in the total.

“Having spent the last week with top retail leaders from around the world at our annual convention, and spending time at the White House yesterday with government policymakers and economists, these numbers validate continued optimism for increased investment and opportunity in the retail industry,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is a consumer-driven economy, and by any measure, the consumer has put the economy in a solid position for continued growth. This is a strong finish to the holiday season, and we think it’s a positive indicator of what’s ahead.”

NRF forecast in October that 2019 holiday sales during November and December would increase between 3.8% and 4.2% for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. The forecast called for online sales to increase between 11% and 14% to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion.

The growth rate reported today is nearly double the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. Sales during December 2018 were down 0.2% from the year before.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “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.”

Retail sales in December 2019 alone increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over November and were up 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

December’s results follow November’s decline of 0.1% month-over-month and increase of 1.3% year-over-year. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 4.1% over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.1% in November.

Kleinhenz said the modest growth in November and the large increase in December came partly because two key days of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend – the Sunday and also Cyber Monday – fell in December this year.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall December sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.3% seasonally adjusted from November and up 5.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during the November-December holiday season include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.9% year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2.6% year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 1% year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 2% year-over-year.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.

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