YAKIMA, Wash. — OK, I know the holiday shopping season is long over, but I couldn’t move on without posting some hard numbers.
So how did retailers fare in 2012? It depends on who you talk to.
The National Retail Federation said total holiday retail sales increased 3 percent to $579.8 billion. That increase, however was below the trade organization’s projection of 4.1 percent.
Matthew Shay, the organization’s president and CEO, said sales were likely tempered by the prospect of rising taxes and spending cuts in the New Year, known to many as the fiscal cliff.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based retail technology firm, estimated that holiday sales in November and December increased year over year by 2.5 percent to $248.8 billion. They state that foot traffic also increased by 2.5 percent. The increase is lower than the 3.3 percent increase in sales projected in September, but on target with ShopperTrak’s revised forecast last month.
Wondering why the two organizations have such different numbers? ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin told Time Magazine that is reflective of what each organization includes in its figures.
ShopperTrak focuses strictly on what is known as GAFO sales, which includes the sales from general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby and book retailers. The NRF, on the other hand, includes a broader base of retailers and may include sales of items that aren’t considered gifts.
Others had a more grim view of the holiday season. Earlier, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which reports on national retail sales, said that consumers only spent 0.7 percent between Oct. 30 and Dec. 24 from the same period in 2011. Last year, that same increase was 2 percent.
The report did note that the success of the holiday season varied by region. The southern and western regions of the U.S. showed strong sales while the northern and Mid-Atlantic regions suffered from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
However with those regions making up 24 percent of U.S. retail sales, a negative season affected the overall number, said Michael McNamara, Global Solutions Leader for MasterCard SpendingPulse.