U.S. fashion retail sales tumble during holidays
U.S. retail sales made progress in the 2020 holiday season according to a new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF), but the positive trend was not felt by apparel retailers, who saw their revenues take a dive in the last two months of the year.
As outlined by data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in spite of the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the national retail sector saw a 3.5% increase in sales in 2020, posting a 6.3% year-over-year rise in December alone, thanks to an uptick in Christmas shopping.
According to NRF’s report, which takes into account the full two-month November-December season, overall holiday retail sales rose 8.3% year over year to $789.4 billion, exceeding the organization’s own forecast of an increase of between 3.6% and 5.2%.
“There was a massive boost to most consumer wallets this season,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz in a release. “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.”
This holiday purchasing rush could not, however, compensate for the pressures affecting specialty apparel and accessories retailers, whose sales experienced a 16% decline in the last month of 2020, compared to the same period in the previous year, according to the Census Bureau. The NRF’s report put the decline at 14.9% over November and December.
There was some hope to be found in e-commerce, which made spectacular gains over the course of the year, but brick-and-mortar-focused retailers continued to struggle during the holiday season.
With this in mind, it comes as little surprise that the Census Bureau reported that department stores – which remain comparatively dependent on their physical retail locations – have also suffered, seeing their sales plummet 21.4% in December 2020, compared to the prior-year period.
At the other end of the scale, online and other non-store retailers were the big holiday winners, posting a 19.2% year-over-year increase in December sales. Over the two-month holiday season, their progress was even more notable, resulting in a 23.9% rise in sales, according to NRF.
Building and garden supply stores also put in a strong performance, achieving a 19% sales rise in November and December, as did sporting goods retailers, where revenues rose 15.2%.
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