NRF: Holiday Retail Sales Up 5.2 Percent

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Holiday retail sales shot up 5.2 percent to $216.32 billion compared with the same period in 2002, according to the National Retail Federation.


The Washington-based NRF tracked sales in the general merchandise, clothing and clothing accessories, furniture and home furnishings, electronics and appliances, sporting goods, hobby, book and music categories.


"A variety of economic and social factors came together just in time for the most important shopping season of the year," Rosalind Wells, NRF chief economist, said in a statement.


Wells expects holiday sales will be revised upward next month as shopping data from the week after Christmas come in. The numbers were not reported in time to make it into the Department of Commerce's estimates of December retail shopping.


Moreover, holiday retail estimates will increase when gift cards are factored in. Gift cards are expected to account for 8 percent of holiday sales. But they are not counted as a sale until merchandise is redeemed. If consumers did not redeem the card before Dec. 31, it does not count as a holiday sale.


Despite reports of a few disappointed retailers, the holidays were a vast improvement over the 2.2 percent growth in the 2002 holiday season.


Also, December sales in the categories tracked by NRF grew 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.3 percent adjusted month-to-month. November sales were up 4.3 percent unadjusted for the year and 0.4 percent over October.


Meanwhile, December retail data released yesterday by the Commerce Department show a 0.1 percent growth seasonally adjusted for the month and 7.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.


The Commerce Department numbers, however, counted non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gas stations and restaurants.


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