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December Retail Monitor Numbers Show Retailers Had Strong Holiday Season

Retail sales continued to grow in December, completing a strong holiday shopping season, according to the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, powered by Affinity Solutions, released by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Click here to access December’s retail data.

“December’s numbers combined with November’s results show retailers had a very successful two-month holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Clearly, retailers got it right this holiday season, providing consumers with what they wanted, options on when and where to make their purchases and with prices customers were comfortable paying. These advance insights from the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor give everyone who follows the retail industry a jumpstart on government data that won’t come out for another week.”

Total retail sales, excluding automobiles and gasoline, were up 0.44% seasonally adjusted month over month and up 3.07% unadjusted year over year in December, according to the Retail Monitor. That compared with increases of 0.77% month over month and 4.24% year over year in November.

The Retail Monitor calculation of core retail sales—excluding restaurants in addition to autos and gas—showed increases of 0.19% month over month and 2.4% year over year in December. That compared with increases of 0.73% month over month and 4.17% year over year in November.

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Total retail sales for all of 2023 were up 5.32% over 2022 and core retail sales were up 4.46%.

The results follow NRF’s forecast that holiday retail sales from November 1 through December 31—excluding autos, gas, and restaurants—would increase between 3% and 4% over 2022 to a record of between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion. The forecast is based on data from the US Census Bureau, and final results will be known when the Census Bureau releases December’s numbers next week.

This is the third month that the Retail Monitor, which was launched in November, has provided data on monthly retail sales. Unlike survey-based numbers collected by the Census Bureau, the Retail Monitor uses actual, anonymized credit and debit card purchase data compiled by Affinity and does not need to be revised monthly or annually.

December sales were up in six out of nine retail categories on a yearly basis, led by online sales, health and personal care stores and clothing and accessory stores, and up in five categories on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:

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  • Online and other non-store sales were up 2.59% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 31.17% year over year unadjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.17% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 5.58% year over year unadjusted.
  • Clothing and accessories stores were down 0.44% month over month but up 4.28% year over year unadjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.84% month over month and up 2.39% year over year unadjusted.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, music and book stores were up 0.62% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 2.25% year over year unadjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.86% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 0.84% year over year unadjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.22% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 6.3% year over year unadjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.9% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 3.76% year over year unadjusted.
  • Building and garden supply stores were down 1.52% month over month and down 10.17% year over year unadjusted.

To learn more, visit nrf.com/crci.

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