NRF Reports Holiday Sales Up a Strong Four Percent


As of Thursday, January 19, 2017

Holiday retail sales beat the forecasts from the National Retail Federation, a leading trade group headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Holiday spending increased 4 percent to $658.3 billion, according to a NRF statement released on Jan. 13. The trade group forecasted that the season’s sales would increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion. The ultimate results for the season proved that the economy is stronger than many thought, said Matthew Shay, the NRF’s president and chief executive officer.

“Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead,” he said.

NRF broke down sales results by retail category, which revealed a mixed bag for various players. Sales for clothing and accessories stores increased 2.5 percent, but department-store sales declined 7 percent.

Business also dipped by 1.7 percent for sporting-goods stores and electronics and appliances stores saw a 2.3 percent decline.

NRF’s report did not break down sales for e-commerce sales, but it forecast that it would increase 16 percent. NRF’s findings did not include sales for restaurants, gasoline stations and automobiles.

The group’s results were based on numbers from the U.S. Commerce Department, which also released a statement Jan. 13, announcing that December sales increased 0.6 percent.

NRF delivered other upbeat economic news to wrap up the season. On Jan. 6, it announced that there was a slight increase in seasonal employment, with 900 more jobs added this holiday retail season compared to last year.

On Jan. 9, it announced that ports saw an increase in retail container traffic. It increased 11.2 percent in November 2016 compared with cargo traffic in November 2015. While traffic of most imported holiday goods had arrived before November, the November uptick was seen as proof that consumer demand was up.

There were other viewpoints on the season’s business. But the season was filled with a lot of contradictory data, Ben Hackett said. He is the founder of Hackett Associates, which puts together the NRF’s monthly report on retail container traffic.

“Economic data is fickle by nature. It surges and falls and often surprises us,” he said. “There is both optimism and pessimism and pointers showing growth as well as decline.”