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Well, as forecast, the retailers had an awful holiday season. From the Census Bureau:

"Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for December, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $382.9 billion, a decrease of 0.4 percent (±0.7%)* from the previous month, but 4.1 percent (±0.7%) above December 2006.

Total sales for the 12 months of 2007 were up 4.2 percent (±0.4%) from 2006. Total sales for the October through December 2007 period were up 4.9 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The October to November 2007 percent change was revised from +1.2 percent (±0.7%) to +1.0 percent (±0.2%).

Retail trade sales were down 0.4 percent (±0.7%)* from November 2007, but were 4.3 percent (±0.8%) above last year. Gasoline station sales were up 18.5 percent (±2.8%) from December 2006 and sales of nonstore retailers were up 12.1 percent (±1.8%) from last December.

Bloomberg wrote:

Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly fell in December, capping the weakest year since 2002. Sales dropped 0.4 percent, the first decline since June, following a revised 1 percent gain in November, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Purchases excluding automobiles also decreased 0.4 percent.

Unexpectedly? Well, only if you believed the hype. This does not mean the end of the world is here -- gross sales were still up year-over-year. As we warned, Real inflation adjusted sales were negative.

Still, consumer spending for December was $382.9 billion -- that's a lot of money no matter how you slice it.


chart courtesy of Barron's

The silver lining is that sales aren't bad everywhere: the new $410,000 Rolls-Royce is sold out (more here).

Previously:
Real Holiday Spending Was Negative in 2007
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/12/holiday-spendin.html

Retail Sales Softer (Ignore the Surveys) http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/12/retail-sales-so.html

More Retail Sales Hype
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/12/retail-sales-da.html

Sources:
ADVANCE MONTHLY SALES FOR RETAIL TRADE AND FOOD SERVICES http://www.census.gov/svsd/www/marts_current.html

U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Declined in December
Bob Willis
Bloomberg, Jan. 15 2007
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aVzW9CqcO2Yg&

Source: December Retail Sales