WASHINGTON—Holiday sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2.2%, part of an unexpectedly robust November-December holiday selling period, the National Retail Federation reported late last week.
Overall, sales grew an “unexpectedly high” 8.3% over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, exceeding the NRF’s holiday forecast despite the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9% at $209 billion.
NRF had forecast that sales during the 2020 holiday season — defined as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 — would increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. The forecast called for online sales to increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said consumers shifted into high gear in December, giving the holiday season a strong finish that could be a good sign for the continuing recovery of the economy this year. The 8.3% holiday season increase was more than double the 3.5% average holiday increase over the previous five years, including 2019’s 4% gain.
Retail sales during December were down 1.6% seasonally adjusted from November but were up 8.6% unadjusted year-over-year. That built on a year-over-year gain of 8% in November despite November’s month-over-month decline of 0.9% from October. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 8.9% over the same period in 2019.
Kleinhenz said holiday-related spending picked up in the third and fourth weeks of December, after it was too late to expect delivery of online purchases by Christmas. Consumers turned to quick in-and-out trips to stores and took advantage of buy online, pick up in-store/curbside services retailers have perfected over the past several months.
“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year.”
The NRF was optimistic about the year to come, too.
“We believe President-elect Biden’s stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing,” Shay said.