Christmas retail sales

We now have final statistics for Christmas buying. Did retailers get the sales they wanted, or were they disappointed? NC State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“Probably a little bit of a disappointment there. The final numbers show that Christmas retail sales were up about 3 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. That was less than the 4 percent gain that we saw in 2014, but it was better than the gains we had in 2012 and 2013. So I’d say a little bit of disappointment, but it could have been worse.

“Part of the reason is not that people bought less — they actually bought as much as in the past, if not more — but inflation was so low. In fact, on many items that people bought for Christmas, you had actually price declines, even taking into account the discounts from the previous year.

“Now some other factors that might play into this is we had a lot of warm weather in a lot of areas of the country that typically aren’t warm during Christmas. Some say that kept people away from shopping.

And then there’s always the old bug-a-boo, Are people always certain and confident about the economy? Or are there economic clouds and uncertainty that kept people away?

So I would say a fair-to-middling experience for Christmas, with sales up 3 percent. I’m sure retailers are going to be looking for ways to do much, much better next year.”

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