U.S. holiday sales rose 3.8 percent from last year, a major retail trade organization said Jan. 14, spurred by deep clothing discounts and the convenience of shopping online.
The figure came in just shy of the group’s forecast of a 3.9 percent increase.
The National Retail Federation said Jan. 14 that retail sales for November and December combined totaled $601.8 billion, according to the federation’s analysis of government data.
The 2013 increase is bigger than last year’s 3.5 percent. But sales came at the expense of profits as stores had to discount early and often to get shoppers to buy. A slew of major retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, and Pier 1 Imports have slashed their profit forecasts.
January is off to a slow start for retailers. On Jan. 13, Express Inc. cut its fourth-quarter profit prediction, citing a slower-than-expected holiday shopping season and also weak store traffic in January.
Retailers’ fiscal year typically ends in late January or early February to include the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas season.
Jan. 14, the Commerce Dept. released figures showing total retail sales rose just 0.2 percent in December. That follows strong gains in October and November, helped by healthy auto sales.
The figures showed that Americans bought more clothing in December, clicked frequently at online retailers and paid higher gas prices. They cut back on cars and almost everywhere else.
The holiday sales results from the National Retail Federation include online sales, but exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants.