Noting the same recession-related spending issues, extreme winter weather and fewer shopping days as other groups tracking sales, the NRF says that for December, retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) fell 2.2%, unadjusted from last year, and fell 1.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis from November. The NRF also revised its November numbers, and now says they came in at 3.4%, not the 2.2% initially reported. The total 2.8% decline for the combined months marks the first time that holiday sales have declined since the trade group began tracking them 14 years ago.
"The current economic crisis proved to be more challenging than any had anticipated," it says in its analysis. "Consumers showed they were more than willing to wait out retailers this year, causing increased pressure on prices."
The carnage was at its worst in furniture and home furnishings stores, where total sales fell 11.9% year-over-year on a seasonally adjusted basis. Clothing and accessories sales fell 9.4%, and electronics and appliances dropped 3.2%.
The only true bright spot, it notes, was in health and personal care stores, where unadjusted sales grew a solid 7.6% from the prior year and gained 0.4% from November. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores managed a year-to-year gain of 0.7%, but slipped 0.4% from November.
Separately, the trade group says that L.L. Bean has once again won the highest honor for customer satisfaction, in its annual survey with American Express Customers' Choice, which is now in its fourth year. The survey shows that shoppers continue to favor online companies, with Overstock.com coming in second, Zappos ranking No. 3, and Amazon.com coming in fourth. Lands' End, newegg, JC Penney, QVC, Coldwater Creek and Nordstrom rounded out the top 10.