A gift for nation's stores: Holiday sales gain

By Parija Kavilanz, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The nation's merchants scored a surprising increase in their crucial year-end holiday sales, countering expectations of a decline, according to an industry report issued Thursday.

Sales in the combined November-December period rose 1.1% to $446.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

chart_holiday_sale011410.ju.gif

The group had forecast a decline of 1% for the period, which would have followed a 3.4% drop in holiday sales in 2008.

"With an eye on managing inventory and maintaining lower price points, retailers did a tremendous job of planning for the holiday season," NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells said in a statement.

However, the retail group maintained a tone of caution about the spending environment in 2010.

"While the consumer appears to be spending again, double-digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum," Wells said.

The year-end sales period is critical for the sellers because those two months can account for 50% or more of their sales and profits for the full year.

The NRF report, which covers the two months of the holiday period, followed a somewhat disappointing government report Thursday that showed a surprising decline in overall retail sales in December. The November sales figures were revised higher, to a gain of 1.8%.

Some industry watchers said both reports indicated a modest pick-up in consumer spending.

Further, the unexpected decline in December retail sales could be revised next month to eventually show a gain, said Michael Niemira, chief economist with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

Niemira said he's hopeful that will happen given that a number of large retail chain reported much better December sales earlier this month.

"The takeaway from the holiday sales [result] is that an economic recovery is picking up steam, but it remains choppy," Niemira said. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,081.81 57.64 0.32%
Nasdaq 4,786.71 21.29 0.45%
S&P 500 2,087.05 4.88 0.23%
Treasuries 2.29 0.03 1.51%
Data as of Dec 24
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 18.04 0.12 0.64%
Gilead Sciences Inc 92.34 2.89 3.23%
General Electric Co 25.71 -0.17 -0.66%
Cisco Systems Inc 28.57 0.32 1.13%
Apple Inc 112.22 -0.32 -0.28%
Data as of Dec 24

Sections

JetBlue is offering to fly police to New York for the funeral of slain NYPD officers and is working to have the family of one of the officers flown in from overseas. More

Cheap gas spreads with a half dozen states poised to join Missouri offering drivers gas for less than $2 a gallon. More

Marriott's plan to block Wi-Fi hotspots in its hotels is being opposed by Google and Microsoft. More

According to data from Google Trends and GrubHub, Chinese food remains the most popular type of food order on Christmas. More

If you're looking to sell your holiday gift cards for cold hard cash... there's an app for that. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.