January 12, 2012, 11:37 AM

E-commerce powers holiday retail growth

Total retail sales beat projections, and non-store retail sales increased 12.3%.

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Retailers of all stripes should be pleased with consumers’ spending during the November-December holiday sales season. Overall retail sales increased 4.1% from last year to $471.50 billion, according to the National Retail Federation trade group. The growth is slightly more than the 3.8% increase the NRF projected ahead of the 2011 holiday season.

New sales numbers released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, meanwhile, show that non-store retailer sales  accounted for $69.62 billion in retail sales during November and December, up 12.3% from  $61.97 billion during the same period a year ago. E-commerce and mail-order sales make up more than 75% of the non-store retailer subsector as defined by the Commerce Department. The Commerce Department bases its sales report on a survey distributed to 5,000 retailers. It will release a more detailed report on Q4 e-retail sales Feb. 16.

ComScore Inc. earlier this month said online shoppers in the United States spent nearly $37.2 billion during the 2011 holiday season, up 15% from the approximately $32.4 billion spent in 2010. The web measurement firm accounted for spending between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, and tracks online purchasing behavior of 2 million consumers.

Consumers spent slightly more money with retailers in November than December, the Commerce Department data reveals. Total retail spending, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, in November was $248.48 billion compared with $248.14 billion in December. “In a matchup between the final two months of 2011, November clearly wins, but in the end retailers’ promotions struck the right chord for budget-focused holiday shoppers,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the NRF.

Sales for the November-December period increased for all major product categories, according to the Commerce Department. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores increased 5.04% from a year ago, sales at electronics and appliance stores grew 1.91%, clothing and clothing accessories stores increased sales 4.74% and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 2.41%.

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