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US Holiday Sales Outstrip Expectations – NRF

Jan 17, 2021 7:18 AM   By Rapaport News
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US retail sales increased 8.3% during the recent holiday season, as consumers looked to connect with family and friends during the pandemic, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.

Consumers spent $789.4 billion over the November-to-December period, according to the NRF, which bases its numbers on figures from the US Census Bureau. That total exceeded the NRF’s prediction of a 3.6% to 5.2% rise to between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. It was also more than double the 3.5% average holiday increase seen over the previous five years, and beat 2019’s 4% improvement, the NRF noted last week.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” said NRF CEO Matthew Shay. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers, and heightened political and economic uncertainly, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends, and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year.”

Online sales grew 24% to $209 billion — within the NRF’s forecast of $202.5 billion to $218.4 billion — according to government data.

Sales in December alone advanced 8.6% year on year, while November saw a gain of 8%. While December started off slow, spending picked up in the second half of the month, following the promise of a new round of stimulus checks from the government and the news of imminent Covid-19 vaccines.

Despite the rising number of purchases, the number of online returns also increased, according to a survey the NRF conducted with Appriss Retail. Consumers sent back an estimated $428 billion of merchandise last year, equal to approximately 10.6% of total retail sales for the year. While product returns were on par with the previous year, e-commerce returns more than doubled, as more consumers were forced to shop online due to the pandemic, the NRF said. Of the $565 billion of goods purchased online during the year, approximately $102 billion was returned.

However, the NRF believes the growth in spending exhibited at the end of the year will continue into 2021.

“We believe President-Elect [Joe] Biden’s stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses, and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing,” Shay added.

Image: A man shopping for holiday gifts. (Shutterstock)
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Tags: Appriss Retail, COVID-19, Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation, NRF, Rapaport News, US Census Bureau, US Holiday Sales
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