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NRF Reports Some Holiday Cheer

Jan 16, 2017 9:30 AM   By Rapaport News
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Holiday retail sales rose 4 percent driven by an accelerated economic recovery even as certain large chain stores reported lower traffic, according to separate reports from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and MasterCard.

The NRF said total U.S. sales increased to $658.3 billion in November and December, exceeding its forecasts, with online and non-store sales growing 13 percent to $122.9 billion. December sales were 3.2 percent stronger versus December 2015 on an unadjusted basis.

“Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead,” said NRF chief executive officer Matthew Shay. “These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future.”

Average hourly earnings increased in 2016 from the previous year, the job market was strong, home values increased and the rising stock market has increased the value of consumers’ investments, the NRF added.

The positive figures contrast with a decline in sales reported by J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and Macy’s, the latter of which announced it will be closing 62 stores. Signet Jewelers also reported holiday sales slumped 5.1 percent and estimated the overall jewelry sector was flat or modestly lower during the season.

The NRF acknowledged this diversity of performances, saying sales at clothing and accessories stores climbed 2.5 percent, outweighing a 7 percent slide in department-store sales.

MasterCard also estimated total sales increase at 4 percent during a slightly shorter period over November 1 to December 24. Online sales jumped 19 percent but physical stores are still attracting customers, just in a different way from how they have done in the past, Sarah Quinlan, senior vice-president of MasterCard Advisors, explained in an interview with Fox Business Network.

“We still like the store, but because we have prepared and had a longer period of time to shop and are going online to curate what we want to buy, we actually go into the store less frequently,” Quinlan said. “Post-recession we shop at about half the number stores we used to shop at, so we’re much more loyal. That’s why some of the bricks and mortars could be announcing that they are a little bit down in traffic.”

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Tags: holiday sales, holiday season, holidays, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, mastercard, MasterCard Advisors, Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation, NRF, Rapaport News, retail, retailnext, Sarah Quinlan, Signet Jewelers
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