2018 holiday retail sales update
Holiday retail sales during 2018 grew a lower-than-expected 2.9 percent over the same period in 2017 to $707.5 billion, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said today after the Commerce Department released data that had been delayed by nearly a month because of the recent government shutdown.
“All signs during the holidays seemed to show that consumers remained confident about the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “However, it appears that worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behavior more than we expected.”
The numbers, which exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, fell short of NRF’s forecast last fall that holiday sales from November 1 through December 31 would grow between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent to between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion.
November – the first half of the holiday season – grew 5.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. But December was up only 0.9 percent year-over-year and down 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted from November.
NRF does not count October as part of the holiday season, but much holiday shopping has shifted earlier, and October was up 5.7 percent year-over-year. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 0.7 percent over the same period a year ago.
“Today’s numbers are truly a surprise and in contradiction to the consumer spending trends we were seeing, especially after such strong October and November spending,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
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 down 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted from November but up 2.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
The holiday numbers come as NRF is forecasting that retail sales during 2019 will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion.
Year-over-year results from key retail sectors during the November-December holiday season include:
- Online and other non-store sales: up 11.5 percent at $146.8 billion.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores: up 4.2 percent at $61.7 billion.
- Health and personal care stores: up 2.6 percent at $60.8 billion.
- General merchandise stores: up 2.3 percent at $146.8 billion.
- Grocery and beverage stores: up 1.9 percent at $130.5 billion.
- Building materials and garden: up 1.6 percent at $61.5 billion.
- Electronics and appliance store: up 0.2 percent at $22.3 billion.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were unchanged at $22.6 billion.
- Sporting goods stores: down 13.5 percent at $16 billion.