Holiday Season Retail Sales Saw Biggest Increase Since 2008

Holiday shopping season retail sales exceeded the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) expectations.

Shoppers were out in droves during the holiday season, driven by the strength of the economy, strong consumer confidence, and the rebuilding efforts following a series of natural disaster that swept across the nation.

Retail sales during the period from November 1 through December were up 5.5% compared to the same period in 2016. Sales reached nearly $692 billion, according to the NRF data released Friday.

This was the largest increase for sales during the holiday since the 2008 recession, exceeding the forecast by the NRF of $682 billion or 4% growth.

The retail trade group said the solid numbers showed the retail industry may not have the troubles that many analysts believe it has.

Matthew Shay the CEO and president of the NRF said through a prepared statement that the group knew entering the season that retailers would have a strong run but the result were better than we all could have hoped for, especially because of the misleading headlines over the last year.

However, the cheery statement by the CEO followed a difficult year for the traditional retailer, who has struggled to adjust to the shift in consumer preferences.

Companies have had to shutter stores, lay off workers and give deep discounts to customers, as online giant Amazon continues capturing the biggest share of the retail market.

Sales online continued to surge upward. Payments company First Data said its analysis showed that holiday sales online increased by 10.4% in comparison with 4% growth in brick and mortar retail sales.

However, part of that growth online went to the traditional retailers that have increased their online operations.

It appeared that the natural disasters that hit the country last year contributed to strong sales, as homeowners started rebuilding following the Florida and Texas hurricanes and the wildfires across California. While most of the destruction took place prior to the holiday shopping season, most likely insurance money took time to reach the hands of the consumer.

The strongest sales for the holiday took place in Houston, which was pummeled by Hurricane Harvey, analysis by First Data showed.

Sales at locations offering building supplies and materials were up 8.1% during November and December compared to the previous year, while furniture and home furnishings sales were up 7.5%. Those categories showed the largest gains, followed by appliances and electronics stores that increased by 6.7%.

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