By Brecken Branstrator
Holiday retail sales during November and December reached $691.9 billion, the NRF said; the 5.5 percent increase over the prior year was the largest since 2010.
Washington--The National Retail Federation’s final figures for the 2017 holiday season are in, and they’re even better than expected.

The retail trade association said November-December sales were up 5.5 percent unadjusted over the same two-month period in 2016 to $691.9 billion, as growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence led consumers to spend more.

The results beat the NRF’s forecast of a 3.6 to 4 percent increase in sales.

It also marked the largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the recession, mirroring the findings of the MasterCard SpendingPulse report released at the end of December.

Of the $600 billion-plus in total sales, $138.4 billion came in the form of online and other non-store sales, an 11.5 percent increase over last year. That was within the NRF’s forecasted range of 11 to 15 percent, albeit at the low end.

The month of December was up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from November and up 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Retail sales in November, as the NRF reported earlier, were up less than 1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis when compared with October, but were up 6 percent year-over-year unadjusted.

According to the NRF, there were increases in every retail category except sporting goods.

Clothing and accessories sales were up 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over year, while electronics and appliance sales increased 6.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year, and sales of furniture and home furnishings rose 7.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

There were a number of factors contributing to the strong season, the NRF said, including unemployment’s 17-year low, an increase in income, strong consumer confidence and a rising stock market.

Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz noted the following: the season came after three of the strongest monthly year-over-year gains for retail sales since the fourth quarter of 2014; nominal disposable personal income was up a combined 3.5 percent year-over-year in October and November; and consumers were feeling better about using their credit cards, with outstanding balances up 6 percent year-over-year.

“The economy was in great shape going into the holiday season, and retailers had the right mix of inventory, pricing and staffing to help them connect with shoppers very efficiently,” he said.

“Strong employment and more money in consumers’ pockets, along with the news of tax cuts, clearly helped with the pace of shopping. The market conditions were right, retailers were doing what they know how to do, and it all worked. We think the willingness to spend and growing purchasing power seen during the holidays will be key drivers of the 2018 economy.”

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