While plenty of retailers are crawling out of the holiday period with bumps, bruises and layoffs, the bigger picture is far more upbeat, with total spending making it the best in the last five years.
In its final tally, the Visa Retail Spending Monitor says retail sales grew 4.8% on Visa payment products, with e-commerce spending on those climbing 19%. (In the prior year, it had gained 14%.) As a whole, e-spending accounted for 24%, an increase from 21% in the prior year.
And the National Retail Federation, in its final report, says total spending rose to $658.3 billion, a 4% gain, and better than its initial forecast. Its tally of non-store sales, which includes online spending, is $122.9 billion, up 12.6% from the prior year. (Initially, the NRF called for a total gain of 3.6%, and online sales improvement of between 7 and 10%.)
Both Visa and the NRF attributed the overall strength of the numbers to low unemployment, growing wages and generally confident consumers.
“The economy was clearly stronger in the fall and consumers were more active during the holiday season than they had been earlier in the year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says in its release. “Economic indicators were up, retailers offered great deals, confidence improved and all of that empowered consumers to spend more.”
In addition, he says healthier real estate markets and gains in stocks also brightened consumers’ spirits.
The NRF’s calculations are based on data from the U.S. Commerce Department, a broader set of data that also includes cars, gasoline, and spending at restaurants and bars.
While those numbers showed gains in categories like furniture and furnishings (up 4.8%) and health and personal care (up 6.7%), the news was bad for department stores (down 7%), electronics (off 2.3%) and sporting goods (1.7%.)