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Dec. CE/Majap Retail Sales Slip 1.4%: Feds

WashingtonDecember sales for CE and appliance dealers slipped 1.4 percent year over year to $8.4 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

The preliminary figures, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, also show a 2.5 percent dip from November.

The government’s December data stands in sharp contrast with other seasonal reports that placed CE among the holiday’s strongest performers by category, and suggests channel-specific weakness as reflected in h.h.gregg’s soft holiday sales.

In comparison, furniture and home-furnishings stores showed a 4.5 percent gain in December, the Census Bureau reported, while e-tailers and other direct sellers enjoyed a 9.9 percent spike in sales last month.

Total retail sales, excluding restaurants and auto dealers, rose 4 percent in December, the agency said.

“Retail sales have been volatile all year and the holiday shopping season was no exception,” observed Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF). “Solid job growth in the months of October and November led to a more-confident consumer and healthy holiday shopping season for many retailers.”

However, he warned that “some of the increase came at the expense of margin. Retailers are still stressed and a long-term promotional environment may actually hurt the bottom line.”

Looking ahead, “the economy seems set for steady growth in the new year,” Kleinhenz noted, adding, “As consumer confidence grows, there will be less need for retailers to heavily promote and discount their offerings.”