Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

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

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,102.38 -272.38 -1.66%
Nasdaq 4,683.92 -49.58 -1.05%
S&P 500 1,921.22 -29.91 -1.53%
Treasuries 2.13 -0.04 -1.85%
Data as of 10:34am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.65 -0.29 -1.82%
Apple Inc 109.27 -1.10 -1.00%
Alcoa Inc 9.49 -0.08 -0.84%
Microsoft Corp 42.61 -0.89 -2.05%
General Electric Co 24.00 -0.51 -2.08%
Data as of Sep 4
Sponsors

Sections

Jessica Alba's Honest Company has been sued by a customer who claims the company is making false claims in its marketing and labeling. More

The Obama economy was supposed to be a selling point for Democrats. But China is rising fears of a global slowdown. More

Google has released Chrome 45, which claims to make your browser faster and give your laptop battery extra life. More

Harlem's Hot Bread Kitchen teaches kitchen skills to low-income immigrant so they can find employment. More

Pimco's famous fund once managed by star manager Bill Gross has less than $100 billion in management for the first time since 2007. More