By Brecken Branstrator
Online and other non-store sales grew almost 15 percent during November and December, according to the NRF.
Washington—Holiday retail sales were up again in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation, helped along by strong online sales.

Retail sales grew 4 percent in the two-month period—November and December—when compared with 2018, to $730.2 billion.

This number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Online and other non-store sales helped propel the year ahead, rising nearly 15 percent over the prior year period to reach $167.8 billion.

The NRF predicted in October that holiday sales in the two-month period would increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent to between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion.

The actual growth rate this year is almost double the 2 percent seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away.

“We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets. There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”

Retail sales in December specifically were nearly flat seasonally adjusted over November and almost 7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

These results follow November’s slight decline month-over-month and increase of 1 percent year-over-year.

As of December, the three-month moving average was up 4 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 3 percent in November.

Kleinhenz said November’s “modest” growth and December’s large increase came partly because two key days of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend—Sunday and Cyber Monday—were in December this year.

In addition to the strong growth in online sales, other key retail areas that grew during the two-month period were grocery and beverage stores (+3 percent), furniture and home furnishings stores (+3 percent), health and personal care stores (+2 percent), and building materials and garden supply stores (+1 percent).

General merchandise stores and sporting goods stores were nearly flat while clothing and clothing accessory stores were down almost 2 percent, and electronics and appliance stores were also down 2 percent.

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