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Updated: January 12, 2024

Holiday retail sales show modest gain, driven by online sales

Storefronts decorated for the holidays Photo / Renee Cordes Many retailers in Kennebunkport offered sales on holiday merchandise after the Christmas Prelude festival for last-minute shoppers.

The recent holiday shopping season was a boon to retailers nationally, with a gain of 3% over the previous year.

The CNBC/National Retail Federation "Retail Monitor" showed that holiday retail sales — from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 — were in the range of $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion, in line with the trade group's forecast. The numbers do not include sales of cars, gas or restaurant meals.

Online sales rose more than 31% from the 2022 holiday shopping season. Among brick-and-mortar stores, health and personal-care stores saw a gain of 5.58% in sales in the recent holiday shopping season.

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

Maine's shopping season was interrupted by a fierce Dec. 18 storm, known as the "Grinch" storm, which knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers. 

Details of the National Retail Federation report

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:

  • 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.

The National Retail Federation posts monthly data on retail sales and also forecasts annual retail sales and spending for key periods such as the holiday season each year.

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