Retail sales ended a year of historic, pandemic-driven gains with a fizzle.
Total retail and food service sales in December slipped a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent from November where economists were looking for month-to-month sales to stay flat.
Against a year earlier, sales were up 16.9 percent, according to the Census Bureau’s sales tally, released Friday.
Fashion showed similar trends.
December sales at apparel and accessories stores fell 3.1 percent from November, but were up 29.5 percent from a year earlier. Department stores were down 7 percent from November and up 22.5 percent from a year ago.
Even e-commerce gave something back at the close of the year, with non-store retailers posting an 8.7 percent seasonally adjusted drop compared with November but a 10.7 percent increase over a year earlier.
But despite a slowdown at the end of the year — as more people shopped earlier for the holidays and the Omicron variant started to clamp down on activity — 2021 was a year for the record books.
Total retail sales jumped 19.3 percent last year as the industry rebounded from the worst of the coronavirus lockdowns and people stayed closer to home, spending more on goods instead of taking long trips.
Now the question is how retail can gain back its momentum with the Omicron variant sweeping across the nation, the supply chain backups expected to last into the fall and consumers operating without the benefit of government stimulus.
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