U.S. Holiday Retail Sales Rose 3%, Missing Projection

  • Unseasonably warm weather, shift in spending hurt merchants
  • NRF had projected a 3.7 percent increase for the season

U.S. holiday sales rose a less-than-forecast 3 percent, the National Retail Federation said, as merchants coped with unseasonably warm weather and a shift to spending on services.

Holiday spending, which the group had projected to rise 3.7 percent, grew to $626.1 billion in the period, which spans November and December. Non-store sales, an indicator of e-commerce transactions, increased 9 percent to $105 billion, the NRF said. The figures exclude spending on automobiles, gasoline and restaurants.

Fced with mild weather and high inventories, retailers slashed prices to lure shoppers in the 2015 holiday season. As consumers shifted spending to experiences and services, such as restaurants, shows and nail salons, more retailers added promotions like free shipping.

“Make no mistake about it, this was a tough holiday season for the industry,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said in a statement.

The U.S. Commerce Department also reported retail data on Friday, saying sales in December decreased 0.1 percent, following a 0.4 percent gain in November. For all of 2015, transactions grew 2.1 percent, the smallest increase since 2009, the department said. The NRF estimated that December sales declined 0.2 percent.

Earlier this month, payments technology firm First Data said retail sales increased 3.3 percent from Oct. 31 through Jan. 4, up from a 3.2 percent gain in the year-earlier period. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend dominated spending in the period, with sales rising 6.3 percent, the firm said, while the last two weeks of December also showed a higher concentration of sales.

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