U.S. Retail-Sales Growth Accelerated to 4.2% Last Week

Same-store sales at a selection of U.S. retailers posted last week the biggest jump of this holiday season, rising 4.2 percent as more consumers finished shopping, according to a survey of retailers.

Almost 74 percent of shoppers completed gift buying in the week ended Dec. 18, spurring faster sales growth than the previous three weeks. That compared with 56.6 percent a week earlier, according to a chain-store sales index released today by New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The 4.2 percent gain compared to a year earlier.

Buying increased after consumer confidence climbed in November to the highest level in five months, while Saks Inc. and other retailers limited promotions and discounts. Sixty-two percent of adults said they expected to spend the same or more on holiday purchases this year than last, according to a National Retail Federation survey released Dec. 15.

“As we head closer to Christmas, people are catching up on their gift buying,” Brian Nagel, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York, said today by telephone. “The consumer is actually in much better shape than most people believed as recently as a couple of months ago.”

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and the holidays generate about 30 percent of annual revenue for retailers. Stores started discounting earlier than in recent years in a grab for sales before Nov. 26 Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day of the year.

Super Saturday

Retailers reported strong traffic on Dec. 18, so-called Super Saturday, which vies with Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year.

“Now that we are down to the wire, consumers have stepped up their shopping pace, as well as their purchases,” Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and research director, said in an e-mailed statement today. The group maintained its forecast that holiday sales will rise 3.5 percent to 4 percent, the biggest increase in four years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Burritt in Greensboro, North Carolina, at cburritt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello in New York at rajello@bloomberg.net.

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