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 17,706.05 213.12 1.22%
Nasdaq 4,861.06 95.28 2.00%
S&P 500 2,076.06 28.02 1.37%
Treasuries 1.86 0.02 1.14%
Data as of 6:24pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.68 0.21 1.45%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 11.11 -0.27 -2.37%
Chesapeake Energy Co... 4.05 0.38 10.35%
Apple Inc 97.90 1.47 1.52%
Microsoft Corp 51.59 1.56 3.12%
Data as of 4:15pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

UCLA and Under Armour reportedly signed a record $280 million deal to outfit teams, which will last for 15 years. More

Coca-Cola announced it had suspended production of Coke in Venezuela and other sugar-sweetened beverages due to a lack of raw sugar. More

A federal sting caught a Romanian man trying to sell weapons to cocaine-smuggling FARC terrorists in Colombia. But during his New York trial he claimed he was actually trying to help the CIA expose an international arms deal. More