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 18,034.93 208.63 1.17%
Nasdaq 4,994.60 62.79 1.27%
S&P 500 2,100.40 19.22 0.92%
Treasuries 1.88 -0.02 -0.84%
Data as of 9:20am ET
Company Price Change % Change
CSX Corp 34.89 1.59 4.77%
Genworth Financial I... 7.79 -0.23 -2.87%
EMC Corp 26.78 0.17 0.64%
Wells Fargo & Co 54.36 0.00 0.00%
Qualcomm Inc 68.64 1.52 2.27%
Data as of Apr 20
Sponsors

Sections

The anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping has produced some astonishing examples of official wrongdoing. More

Jen Glantz is carving out a piece of the wedding industry: as a professional bridesmaid. Here's a look at what that entails. More

Fliers report higher satisfaction levels when it comes to flying, but Spirit Airlines ranks lowest on the American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report 2015. More