December 2018 US Retail Sales: Year-Over-Year Growth Slows to Just 1.0% as Most Sectors Experience a Sluggish December

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Key Points

U.S retail sales grew just 2.9% in the 2018 holiday period (November and December), according to our analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

  • Total retail sales excluding fuel and automobiles increased just 1.0% in December, slowing dramatically from the 5.2% growth reported for November. This dragged down total holiday period sales growth (ex fuel and automobiles) to just 2.9% year over year, below many estimates — including our own. 
  • Total seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales including automobiles and gasoline increased 2.1% on a year-over-year basis in December. This was slower than the 4.0% year-over-year growth we saw in November.
  • All major sectors saw slowing growth in December, with the exception of clothing stores and electronics and appliance retailers. Clothing stores proved particularly robust, with year-over-year growth nudging up to 4.7% in December, from 4.6% in November. Non-store retailers, which include high-growth Internet retailers, saw growth slow to 3.7% in December.

Our measure of core retail sales is non-seasonally-adjusted sales excluding gasoline and automobiles. This metric increased by just 1.0% year over year in December, slowing dramatically from the growth in preceding months, including a 5.2% uplift in November. This resulted in total holiday-period sales coming in at $693 billion, up by just 2.9% year over year.

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