Ara

HOLIDAY SALES CRUSH EXPECTATIONS IN RECORD HIGH


US retail sales surged 14% during the recent holiday season as consumers eagerly spent their savings, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Consumers shelled out an unprecedented $886.7 billion over the November-to-December period, the NRF, which bases its numbers on figures from the US Census Bureau, said Friday. The total far outstripped the NRF’s initial prediction of an 8.5% to 10.5% rise to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. It also exceeded the NRF’s revised outlook that sales could grow as much as 11.5%. The 2021 figure compares with an average increase of 4.4% for the previous five years, the NRF explained. “We closed out the year with outstanding annual retail sales and a record holiday season, which is a clear testament to the power of the consumer,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said. “Despite supply-chain problems, rising inflation, labor shortages and the Omicron variant, retailers delivered a positive holiday experience to pandemic-fatigued consumers and their families. Consumers were backed by strong wages and record savings and began their shopping earlier this year than ever before. The numbers are clear: 2021 was an undeniably outstanding year for retail sales.” Online sales grew 11.3% to $218.9 billion, according to government data — within the NRF’s forecast of an 11% to 15% jump. Sales in December alone advanced 16.9% year on year but fell 1.9% from November. The slowdown in December comes as many consumers began shopping earlier than usual this season amid fears over shipping delays, supply challenges and the resurgence in coronavirus cases. “Worries about inflation and Covid-19 put pressure on consumer attitudes but did not dampen spending, and sales were remarkably strong,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Even though many consumers began shopping in October, this was the strongest November and December we’ve ever seen. Despite supply-chain challenges, retailers kept their shelves stocked and consumers were able to fill their carts both in-store and online.” All of the nine categories the NRF monitors saw increases over the two-month festive period. The clothing and accessories segment — which includes jewelry — recorded the largest growth, up 33%, the NRF reported. “Holiday spending during 2021 reflected continued consumer demand that is driving the economy and should continue in 2022,” Kleinhenz added. “Nonetheless, we should be prepared for challenges in the coming months due to the substantial uncertainty brought by the pandemic.”