January 22, 2018

U.S. retail sales grow more quickly than expected in December

13 January 2018, 04:01 | Melvin Schneider

December's retail sales were the best in three years; Philly retailers did well too

Retail Sales Grew 0.4% in December

The National Retail Federation today announced that sales made during from November 1 to December 31 increased by 5.5% over 2016.

However, sales of some more discretionary items, such as sporting goods, book and music stores declined by 1.6%, alongside a 2.9% fall in those at miscellaneous store retailers. Sales in restaurants and bars rose 0.7 percent, while department and general merchandise stores saw a more modest rise of 0.1 percent.

Sales in November and December rose to US$691.9 billion (RM2.74 trillion), compared with US$655.8 billion the previous year, excluding sales at restaurants, automobile dealers and gasoline stations. Still, tepid results from department stores and apparel retailers show that not every company will benefit from more shopper spending.

The results topped NRF's forecast of holiday sales between $678.75 billion and $682 billion representing an increase of between 3.6% and 4%.

The NRF credited the sales numbers to the 17-year low unemployment, increase in income, strong consumer confidence and the healthy stock market for shoppers' willingness to open their wallets.

Retail Sales Grew 0.4% in December

Both December's increase in retail sales and the strong upward revision to November data strengthens economists' expectations of an acceleration in consumer spending for the fourth quarter.

Consumer spending is the main engine of the US economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of total economic output.

Its analysis released Wednesday showed that overall spending among Philly shoppers in stores grew 4 percent this last holiday season from past year. Bon-Ton Stores, like many other retailers, has faced challenges as customers shifted from brick-and-mortar and mall shopping toward online retailing, and The Wall Street Journal has reported the chain has considered a possible bankruptcy filing.

Economists said a number of factors, including a growing economy and booming stock market, helped spur spending growth. Fluctuations in sales often reflect changes in gas prices, not volume.

Looking at specific categories, December sales and overall 2017 retail sales were a mixed bag. A few sectors didn't fare as well: Sales fell 1.6 percent at sporting goods stores and 0.3 percent at clothing stores.

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