Grocery sector was a star of U.S. holiday period retail sales
Grocery and beverage stores saw some of the highest growth rates in the U.S. retail sector during the holiday period.
Sales in the sector were up 2.9% in November and December year-over-year, while most others were below 2% growth or experienced declines, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
The only sector to grow faster was 'online and other non-store sales', which were up 14.6%.
Total holiday retail sales during 2019 grew 4.1% over the same period in 2018 to US$730.2bn. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
Furniture and home furnishings was up 2.6%, while health and personal care was up 1.6%, and building materials and garden supply was up 1%.
Other sectors include general merchandise, up 0.4%, sporting goods, down 0.4%, clothing, down 1.6% and electronics and appliances, down 2%.
“Having spent the last week with top retail leaders from around the world at our annual convention, and spending time at the White House yesterday with government policymakers and economists, these numbers validate continued optimism for increased investment and opportunity in the retail industry,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.
“This is a consumer-driven economy, and by any measure, the consumer has put the economy in a solid position for continued growth. This is a strong finish to the holiday season, and we think it’s a positive indicator of what’s ahead.”
The growth rate reported is nearly double the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. Sales during December 2018 were down 0.2% from the year before.
“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
“Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away. We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets.
"There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”