Retail sales during 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, exceeding the National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast despite the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, a NRF released statement said.
The numbers include online and other non-store sales, which were up 23.9 percent at $209 billion.
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said consumers shifted into high gear in December, giving the holiday season a strong finish, which could be a good sign for the continuing recovery of the economy. The 8.3 percent holiday season increase was more than double the 3.5 percent average holiday increase during the previous five years, including 2019’s 4 percent gain.
Holiday-related spending picked up in the third and fourth weeks of December, after it was too late to expect delivery of online purchases by Christmas. Consumers turned to quick in-and-out trips to stores and took advantage of buy online, as well as pick up in-store/curbside services.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said overall December sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were down 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from November but up 2.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
The holiday season saw year-over-year gains in six out of nine retail categories:
• Online and other non-store sales, up 23.9 percent
• Building materials and garden supply stores, up 19 percent
• Sporting goods stores, up 15.2 percent
• Grocery and beverage stores, up 9.6 percent
• Health and personal care stores, up 5.4 percent
• Furniture and home furnishings stores, up 2.2 percent
• General merchandise stores, down 0.1 percent
• Electronics and appliance stores, down 14.4 percent
• Clothing and clothing accessory stores, down 14.9 percent