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12/15/2021

NRF: Core retail sales up 14.8% YOY in November

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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NRF currently expects that 2021 holiday sales during the two months could grow as much as 11.5%

The 2021 holiday season is in the home stretch for record spending despite inflation, supply chain disruptions and COVID-19.

Core retail sales November were unchanged from October, but were up 14.8% year-over-year, said the National Retail Federation, whose calculation excludes auto dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. (Retail sales rose 1.8% in October and were up 10.6% year-over-year.)

The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales, which includes food service, in November rose 0.3% seasonally adjusted from October and increased 18.2% year-over-year. That compares with increases of 1.8% month-over-month and 16.3% year-over-year in October. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to Census data.

“Consumers continued spending in November, building on momentum from strong early holiday shopping in October and setting the stage for a bright holiday season,” stated NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Consumers’ financial condition remains healthy and neither stubborn inflation nor COVID-19 appear to have derailed holiday spending despite both being top of mind.”

Recent labor market progress has helped propel incredibly strong demand, and most shoppers have the income and savings to absorb higher prices driven by the pandemic and supply chain disruptions, added Kleinhenz. 

“While seasonally adjusted numbers may make the results look modest, seasonal patterns have been significantly disrupted by the pandemic and unadjusted data shows November’s sales as calculated by NRF were actually the highest on record,” he said.

Consumers have shopped earlier than ever this year, according to NRF. But the group defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31, so the November results mark the completion of the first half of the official season.

NRF currently expects that 2021 holiday sales during the two months could grow as much as 11.5% over 2020, exceeding its earlier forecast of between 8.5% and 10.5% growth. Even at the low end of the range, both the amount spent and the growth rate would set new records, the NRF noted.

For the first 11 months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 14.2% over the same period in 2020. That is consistent with NRF’s forecast that retail sales for the full year should grow between 10.5% and 13.5% over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.

[Read More: Retail sales to exceed $4.44 trillion in 2021, as NRF revises annual forecast upward]

November sales were up in all but three categories on a monthly basis and were up across the board year-over-year, led by increases at clothing, sporting goods and furniture stores. Specifics from key sectors are below.

  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 35.3% percent unadjusted year-over-year. 
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  • Sporting goods stores were up 1.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 22.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 18.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 4.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 17.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 15.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were down 1.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 14.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 12.2%unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 9.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 1.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 8.8% unadjusted year-over-year.