December retail sales figures from the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over November and a strong 6.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year. These figures include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants.
Consumers stocked up on discretionary gift items in December, including home décor, sporting goods, books and personal care items.
Apparel sales performed well, with sales increasing 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over November and 7.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores enjoyed an increase of 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year; while sales at furniture and home furnishings stores increased 1.0 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and a 5.7 percent rise unadjusted year-over-year.
Electronics and appliance stores, which saw growth in November, saw a 3.9 percent decline in December sales from the previous month and a 0.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
“In a matchup between the final two months of 2011, November clearly wins, but in the end retailers’ promotions struck the right chord for budget-focused holiday shoppers,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist, NRF. “Though we are seeing evidence that the economy still has a critical hold on consumers’ purchase decisions, this strength in spending could continue into 2012.”