Holiday Retail Sales Up 4 Percent in 2016

New York–A number of jewelers indicated to National Jeweler that they had a strong holiday, and now the National Retail Federation has released numbers that show it was a good season for other retailers as well.

Retail sales in November and December (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) were up 4 percent year-over-year, reaching $658.3 billion, the National Retail Federation said Friday, noting that consumers were spending more in light of the strengthening economy.

This includes $122.9 billion in non-store (online and catalog) sales, which is a 13 percent increase over the 2015 season.

The final holiday season numbers exceeded the NRF’s initial forecast of $655.8 billion, which would have been a 4 percent increase over 2015.

The NRF bases its number on data from the U.S. Commerce Department, which also said Friday that overall sales for the month of December, including automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, were up nearly 1 percent percent seasonally adjusted from November and 4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

The NRF also predicted that web sales would grow between 7 and 10 percent to about $117 billion during the holiday season. While Commerce Department data on online retail sales isn’t out yet, the NRF also expects that it will beat forecasts, showing growth of about 16 percent year-over-year.

“These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead.”

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz also said average hourly earnings were up in 2016 over the prior year, job gains were strong and unemployment, though up slightly in December compared with November, still remained low.

ShopperTrak, the Chicago-based company that tracks in-store foot traffic, released some holiday results on Thursday, noting that “overall retail traffic trends” were down 6 to 7 percent. The company didn’t respond to request for comment on how that number was reached by press time.

The company said that sales-per-shopper trends–which is retail conversion multiplied by average transaction size to represent how well a store has performed regardless of traffic–were up 2 to 3.5 percent.

Additionally, ShopperTrak released data on the 10 busiest shopping days of the year and how they compared with its predictions ahead of the holiday season.

The busiest day of the year in terms of foot traffic in stores was, in fact, Black Friday, but the No. 2 spot ended up being Friday, Dec. 23 rather than Monday, Dec. 26, as ShopperTrak initially thought it would be.

Nos. 3, 4 and 5 were Dec. 26; Saturday, Dec. 17 (Super Saturday); and Saturday, Dec. 10.

ShopperTrak noted that the busy 10 days accounted for nearly 44 percent of the season’s brick-and-mortar traffic, similar to that seen in the top 10 traffic days in 2015.

Analytics firm comScore also released holiday numbers.

It said that for the months of November and December, consumers spent $63.1 billion online on desktop computers, marking a 12 percent year-over-year increase.

Despite a slow start to the early shopping season, consumers picked up the pace online once Thanksgiving rolled around.

Cyber Monday (Nov. 28) once again ranked as the heaviest spending day of the year, with more than $2 billion in desktop buying for the third year in a row. In 2016, it also became the first day ever to bring in more than $1 billion in mobile commerce, according to comScore.

“Looking back on the season as a whole, 2016 marked another year where digital–and in particular, mobile–grew its spending share and influence relative to traditional brick-and-mortar retail,” comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni said.

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