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Holiday Retail Sales Grew 4.1 Percent In 2019: NRF

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U.S. holiday retail sales in 2019 grew strongly compared to last year and came in at the high end of a previously forecast range, the National Retail Federation said Thursday.

Holiday retail sales in 2019 grew 4.1 percent from the prior-year period to $730.2 billion. The figures exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The strong increase in retail sales came even as this year's holiday season was among the shortest, as there were six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to last year.

Online and other non-store sales rose 14.6 percent to $167.8 billion and are included in the total figure. The increase also topped the NRF's projections.

The holiday season is the most crucial period of the year for the retail industry. Traditionally, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S.

In October, the NRF forecast that 2019 holiday sales in November and December would increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. Online sales for the period were projected to increase between 11 percent and 14 percent to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion.

The growth rate in 2019 holiday retail sales is almost double the weak 2.1 percent growth in the 2018 holiday season, which was impacted by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes, the NRF noted.

Retail sales in December 2019 increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted over November and also grew 6.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year. The December's results followed November's decline of 0.1 percent month-over-month and an increase of 1.3 percent year-over-year.

The figures by NRF are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said that overall December sales rose 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from November and up 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said the modest growth in November and the large increase in December was partly because two key days of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend - the Sunday and also Cyber Monday - fell in December this year.

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