There’s always much speculation leading into the Christmas season about the strength of sales. Unfortunately, we don’t receive the final numbers for Christmas sales until well after the season. The good news is we now have those figures, and N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains whether Christmas was naughty or nice to retailers.
“I’d say it was in between, neither naughty nor nice. Let me give you the numbers, which we now finally have in, and we’re looking here at December 2012 numbers, comparing them to December 2011 retail sales.
“Retail sales were up 5 percent. That’s not bad. That’s certainly not spectacular. It’s actually about what economists expected. I think when you and I talked about this prior to Christmas, I was saying maybe around 4 percent gain. So it came in a little better.
“When we look at what kinds of products really sold heavily during Christmas, actually furniture was a big gainer. Many are surprised at that, but actually I think with the recovery of the housing market, with the fact that people refrained from buying furniture during the recession, this actually makes sense. So furniture was a big gainer.
“Electronics (were) actually somewhat of a disappointment. And, again, I think that’s because even during the recession people were motivated to buy new electronics, beyond the cutting-edge electronics. So you didn’t see a big gain in electronic sales during this past Christmas.
“So I think the fact that Christmas sales went up by 5 percent, which is a modest number but nevertheless positive, conforms again to the fact that our economy is improving, but improving modestly.”