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Retailers report December sales up

Updated: February 5, 2013 6:22AM



A last-minute surge in spending helped many major retailers report better-than-expected sales in December, a relief for stores that make up to 40 percent of annual revenue during the holiday period, while online sales made huge gains that fell just short of optimistic forecasts.

Consumers had a lot to worry about this holiday, including the possibility of the U.S. economy falling off the “fiscal cliff.” But after spending cautiously during most of the season, they loosened their purse strings in the final shopping days.

Twenty retailers reported sales in December rose an average of 4.5 percent compared with the year-ago period, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s on the high end of the expected range of 4 percent to 4.5 percent. Costco, Nordstrom and TJX Cos. were among the best performers. Target and Barnes & Noble had weaker results.

Online holiday sales soared 14 percent from 2011, to $42.3 billion during the November-December period, according to the latest news released minutes ago from online-sales tracker Comscore.

Free shipping day, which fell on Monday, Dec. 17, saw sales skyrocket by 76 percent, to $1.013 billion, and even on Christmas Day, sales jumped 36 percent to $288 million, the report says.

Despite the growth, the 14-percent final tally fell short of Comscore’s 16-percent growth forecast. After four weeks of growth, the next three weeks of the November-December holiday season failed to surpass a 12-percent growth rate, Comscore reported.

Shoppers’ worries about the economy and Congress’ fiscal cliff budget negotiations contributed to the December “swoon,” said Comscore Chairman Gian Fulgoni.

— Contributing: Associated Press



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