NEW YORK – A stronger economy helped boost holiday sales, both in stores and online this season, but department stores continued to struggle as habits shift.
The revenue increased by 4 percent to approximately $658.3 billion, according to The National Retail Federation. That beat a forecast for a 3.6 percent boost. Online sales alone rose 12.6 percent to $122.9 billion, topping a forecast for growth of 10 percent.
“Retail mirrors of the economy,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay. “And while there may be some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail trade, overall was a good holiday season and retailers will be working for the conservation of this in the coming year.”
The report is partly supported by a Commerce Department report also shows that the turnover increased in December, particularly in car buying and online shopping. The National Retail Federation bases its report on data from the Ministry of Trade.
The holiday season is a crucial period of the retailers, because it is good for as much as 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.
The sale of the health and personal care items rose 6.7 percent, while furniture sales rose by 4.8 percent and clothing sales rose 2.5 percent. Electronics sales declined 2.3 percent.
The largest decline came from the department stores, with a 7 percent decline. Many department stores are still struggling with increased competition from online shopping sites, such as Amazon.com. Last week, Macy’s said it would shutter 68 stores after a disappointing shopping season, where sales declined 2.1 percent at established stores in November and December. It also cut its full-year profit forecast.