US consumers spent more on clothing in December

US consumers spent more on clothing in December

US retail sales continued on an upward trajectory in December, helped by consumers spending more on clothing and general merchandise.

The latest figures from the US Department of Commerce showed retail sales (which include cars, gasoline and restaurants) were up 0.2% from November, and increased 4.0% year-on-year.

During the month, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores were up 1.8% month-on-month, and grew 5.2% when compared to the same month of the prior year. For general merchandise stores, sales edged up 0.1% month-on-month, and rose 1.5% year-on-year.

Department store sales, however, slipped 0.7% on the month before, and fell 3.3% year-on-year. And at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, sales edged down 0.6% month-on-month, but grew 4.8% on the prior December.

Separate figures from the National Retail Federation (NRF), which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, found December retail sales edged up 0.4% on November, and increased 4.6% year-on-year.

"Despite facing a truncated holiday season, severe weather, and shaky consumer confidence, retailers rose to the challenge and executed their strategies with proven success," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

"Today's holiday sales numbers are a testament to a resilient industry that knows what their customers want, when they want it and how they want to get it. Considering that retail sales are an important barometer when measuring the overall health of our national economy, this report provides a level of true optimism that the recovery is picking up steam, and once again, retail leads the way."

While NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added: "Retail sales have been volatile all year and the holiday shopping season was no exception."

Solid job growth in October and November helped consumer spending during the holiday season, Kleinhenz noted, and the economy is expected to see steady growth in the New Year.

"Undoubtedly, 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. As consumer confidence grows, there will be less need for retailers to heavily promote and discount their offerings."