An improving labour market and a drop in fuel prices helped US retailers record their best Christmas sales in more than a decade.
Like-for-like sales increased 5% for the nine weeks to the end of December, higher than the 3.8% growth forecast, said the Financial Times, citing data from the Retail Metrics Index. The trading results proved to be the strongest for both physical stores and online since the data was first recorded in 2000.
US clothing retailer JC Penney said like-for-like sales were up 3.7% over the Christmas period and forecast that like-for-likes in its fourth quarter would be at the upper end of its previous guidance range of 2% to 4%.
Similarly department store Macy’s posted a 2.7% increase in like-for-like sales while clothing retailer Urban Outfitters recorded a 4% rise.
Target said it enjoyed record sales on Target.com on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, with sales up 40% across the two days compared to 2013, adding that Target.com store collection orders hit a new record high on Thanksgiving Day. Listing its digital performances, the retailer said mobile traffic made up 60% of its online traffic during November and December while Black Friday weekend purchases made via mobile phones were two times higher than 2013.
Book retailer Barnes & Noble reported a 1.7% lift in like-for-like sales for the nine weeks to January 3 as sales from its bookstores and website edged up 0.2% to $1.1bn compared to the previous year. The retailer attributed the slight sales rise to the stabilisation of physical book sales, growth in the educational toys and games and gifts departments together with a more favourable timing of the nine-week trading period - finishing January 3 compared to December 28 - offsetting a drop in sales from store closures.
Pharmacy retailers Walgreens and Rite Aid also enjoyed strong like-for-like sales in December, said Retail Metrics.
However, there was no Christmas cheer for Toys R Us, which reported a 2.7% fall in like-for-likes during the festive season and a 5% decline in domestic sales. The retailer did record an increase in gross margin, thanks to less discounting.
Falling oil prices are having a knock-on effect on fuel prices in the US, while the job market has shown marginal signs of improvement in 2014 compared with the previous year.