U.S. retailers’ 2010 holiday sales jumped 5.5 percent for the best performance in five years as shoppers snapped up clothing and jewelry at Macy’s Inc., Tiffany & Co. and other stores.
Retail sales, excluding autos, rose to $584 billion from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, said MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which measures retail sales by all payment forms. That compared with a 4.1 percent gain a year earlier. The numbers include sales made over the Web.
Consumers bought coats at chains such as Bloomingdale’s as their confidence improved alongside the U.S. job market. Their spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the American economy, is a positive sign heading into next year, Michael McNamara, a vice president at Purchase, New York-based SpendingPulse, said yesterday.
“Increasing confidence has freed up more money from savings,” McNamara said. “We pretty much put a bow on what has been a positive season across a number of retail areas. We are seeing this momentum building and being sustained.”
A Northeast storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in areas from North Carolina to Massachusetts on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27 probably did little more than hamper store visits and won’t dent the overall season’s sales, McNamara predicted.
Apparel sales grew the fastest in the 50 days before Christmas, with an 11 percent gain, more than 10 times the pace of last year. Sales of jewelry accelerated 7.2 percent, more than twice as fast as in 2009, McNamara said.
Luxury sales rose 6.7 percent, compared with 0.9 percent a year ago. Consumer electronics sales increased 1.2 percent after falling 4.6 percent a year earlier. Furniture climbed 3.8 percent after a 2.2 percent drop last year.
Tiffany, the world’s second-largest luxury jewelry retailer, forecast a 10 percent increase in sales in the Americas this year after an 11 percent decline in the previous 12 months. Macy’s, the second-largest U.S. department store chain, on Dec. 2 boosted its fourth-quarter forecast for sales at stores open at least a year to as much as 4.5 percent from a previous maximum of 4 percent.
Buying increased after consumer confidence climbed in December to the highest level in six months. Initial U.S. jobless claims fell in the week ended Dec. 18 and the number of people on unemployment benefit rolls dropped to a two-year low, adding to evidence the labor market is improving.
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