The numbers are in: Retailers had the best holiday season in years

Sales were up 5.5% during the November and December holiday shopping season according to the National Retail Federation analysis of government data

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in the November/December timeframe increased 5.5% over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion.

Online retailers reported a strong sales gain of 1.2 percent. "General merchandise sales (without food or autos) barely moved up, and most of the increase was in non-store retailing", Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, told Retail Dive in an email. Retails sales rose 5.4 percent in December of 2016.They advanced 4.2 percent in 2017 compared to 3.2 percent in 2016. "Consumers are still buying, but where they are buying and how they are buying is changing and will continue to evolve as price transparency increases and e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations of retailers continue to converge into one seamless consumer experience".

Electronics and appliance stores increased 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year. This increase topped the trade group's expectations for sales excluding restaurants, automobiles and gasoline to rise 3.6% to 4%.

Shepherdson also pointed out the sharp 0.4% net upward revision to non-automobile sales for October and November, which he expected would trigger upward revisions to estimates of household consumption for the final three months of 2017. Sales at nonstore retailers grew 1.2% following November's 4.2% increase.

Consumer spending is the main engine of the USA economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of total economic output.

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Jeremy Andrus, chief executive officer at Traeger Grills, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based maker of wood pellet grills, said Traeger's fastest-selling grill shifted from an $800 model to a $1,000 model this holiday season as consumers showed a willingness to reach deeper into their pockets. Spending could get a boost from last month' $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts that was passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and then signed into law by President Trump.

Gasoline-station sales were flat in December from the prior month, according to the Commerce Department report.

Overall though, the IHS said the holiday sales lifts its outlook for the fourth quarter.

On the other hand, the report showed steep drops in sales by miscellaneous store retailers, sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, and department stores.

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