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Shoppers push holiday sales up 4%


Confident consumers stocked up on gifts and other merchandise over the 2014 holiday season, helping boost overall holiday retail sales to their highest level since 2011.

According to the National Retail Federation, December retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, decreased 0.9% seasonally adjusted month-to-month, and 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year. The significant drop in gasoline prices in the month of December brought down much of the month-to-month growth.

Total holiday retail sales, which include November and December sales, increased 4% to $616.1 billion, which was in line with NRF’s projected forecast of 4.1% growth. In addition, non-store holiday sales, which is an indicator of online and e-commerce sales, grew 6.8% to $101.9 billion.

The U.S. Commerce Department, which does include gasoline, said that December retail sales decreased 0.9% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Today’s holiday retail sales results are welcome news for our industry and for our economy. There is every reason to believe that we have moved well beyond the days of consumer pessimism and that the trajectory for retailers continues to point up,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We are fortunate to represent a resilient industry with business leaders who are committed to providing the best value to their customers. A successful holiday for retail sales is extremely important, but the work to build upon and grow that success never ends.”

“Preliminary holiday results affirm our initial belief that consumers going into the holiday season had the spending power necessary to give retail the shot in the arm it needed," said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. "While December’s figures are disappointing, holiday sales in 2014 are the best we've seen since 2011. We remain positive about the future and expect to see consumers continue to benefit from the extra income gained from an improved job market and the dramatic fall in gas prices. It is important to recognize that December is a very difficult month to adjust for seasonal forces because of holiday spending and this could explain in part this month’s volatility."

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