The retailer trade association had predicted a decline in store sales of 2.2% for the season. It was the first drop since NRF started tracking holiday sales in 1995.
Katie Evans , Managing Editor, International Research
Retail store sales declined 2.8% during November and December, the National Retail Federation reported today, the first drop since NRF began tracking holiday season sales in 1995. The figures include only store sales, and not online sales.
The decline was larger than NRF’s prediction of a 2.2% falloff in sales from the November and December of 2007. The trade association blamed the drop on a deep recession, severe winter weather and five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
“The current economic crisis proved to be more challenging than any had anticipated,” says NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “Consumers showed they were more than willing to wait out retailers this year causing increased pressure on prices.”
In a separate release today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s reported a 7.7% decline for the last three months of the year, including retail and food services but excluding gasoline and auto sales. The Commerce Department will report e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter Feb. 17.
The NRF report says total retail store sales for November and December 2008 amounted to $447.5 billion, down from $460.2 billion during the same two months in 2007. December sales were down 2.2% from a year earlier and down 1.4% seasonally adjusted from November. The NRF revised its previous estimate of a 2.2% year-over-year sales decline in November to a steeper drop of 3.4%.
Among the stronger retail sectors were health and personal care stores, up 7.6% year over year, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music, up 0.7%. Clothing and accessory store sales were down 9.4% year over year, furniture and home furnishings down 11.9% and electronics and appliances down 3.2%.