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Not Just Jewelers: NRF Says Holiday Sales Strong For All Retailers January 20, 2021 (0 comments)


Washington, DC—It wasn’t just jewelers who had a lot to celebrate this holiday season. Figures released late last week from the National Retail Federation showed holiday retail sales across the board rose an impressive 8.3% over the same period in 2019, more than double the annual increases of each of the last five years, and significantly besting the organization’s estimates of a 3.6% to 5.2% lift. Total retail sales for the 2020 holiday season (which NRF defines as November 1-December 31) totaled $789.4 billion, despite enormous challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. 

NRF’s numbers exclude automobile dealers, gas stations, and restaurants, but they do include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9% to $209 billion. That figure was in line with the organization’s estimates for the category: NRF’s forecast called for online sales to increase between 20% and 30%, to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion. 
“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers, and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year. We believe President-elect Biden’s [sic] stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing.” (Editor's note: Shay's comments were made prior to President Biden's inauguration.)

Related: Season Totals Astound Jewelers

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said consumers shifted into high gear in December, giving the holiday season a strong finish that could be a good sign for the continuing recovery of the economy this year. 

“There was a massive boost to most consumer wallets this season. Consumers were able to splurge on holiday gifts because of increased money in their bank accounts from the stimulus payments they received earlier in the year and the money they saved by not traveling, dining out, or attending entertainment events. Some families are still struggling, as are some retail sectors. But the promise of a new round of stimulus checks after a deal was struck before Christmas helped increase consumer confidence. Consumers were also encouraged by the news of COVID-19 vaccines becoming available, which helped offset concerns about increased infection rates and state restrictions on activity,” Kleinhenz said.

Kleinhenz said holiday-related spending picked up in the third and fourth weeks of December, after it was too late to expect delivery of online purchases by Christmas. Consumers turned to quick in-and-out trips to stores and took advantage of buy online, pick up in-store/curbside services retailers have perfected over the past several months.

Retail sales during December were down 1.6% seasonally adjusted from November, but were up 8.6% unadjusted year-over-year. That built on a year-over-year gain of 8% in November, despite a month-over-month decline of 0.9% from October. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 8.9% over the same period in 2019. NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said that overall December sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were down 0.7% seasonally adjusted from November but up 2.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

The holiday season saw year-over-year gains in six out of nine retail categories, led by double-digit increases for online sales, building materials stores, and sporting goods stores. Specifics from key retail sectors during the November-December holiday period, all unadjusted year-over-year, include: 

Separately, among better fine jewelers, The Centurion’s final season survey showed 65% of respondents reporting sales gains of 10% or more over 2019—in itself, a record year. Meanwhile, any fears that the industry or consumers might have had about buying expensive jewelry online can be put to rest: Mastercard reported online jewelry sales up 46% for the season, and Signet reported its online holiday sales leapt 61% over 2019.

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