Jan 14 (Reuters) - U.S. holiday sales in 2021 came in at a
better-than-expected $886.7 billion, boosted by customers
returning to stores and splurging more online, even as a jump in
COVID-19 cases and supply chain issues threatened to upend the
crucial shopping season.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) said holiday sales,
including e-commerce, jumped 14.1% during November and December,
exceeding its latest forecast of a rise of as much as 11.5%.
"Despite supply chain problems, rising inflation, labor
shortages and the Omicron variant, retailers delivered a
positive holiday experience to pandemic-fatigued consumers and
their families," NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said
in a statement.
With higher wages, and better household savings from
stimulus checks and reduced spending on outdoor activities, U.S
shoppers opened up their wallets to everything from apparel and
sporting goods to furniture and electronics.
E-commerce and non-store sales jumped 11.3% over the holiday
season, NRF data showed.
The make-or-break shopping season was marked by
pandemic-induced shipping delays and product shortages. Some
retailers such as Walmart and Target re-rerouted
goods to less congested ports and even chartered their own
vessels for deliveries.
Retailers' efforts to stock up early on helped drive 2021
holiday sales "because even though Omicron impacted consumers'
mobility in December, they had started shopping well before,"
RSM US analyst Mike Graziano said.
The Omicron-led surge in coronavirus cases at the end of the
year led to a 2.7% decline in retail sales in December, which
excludes automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants,
according to NRF data.
Some apparel retailers including Abercrombie & Fitch
and Lululemon Athletica have already flagged dull
holiday-quarter businesses, hit by Omicron-driven staffing
shortages and a decline in store traffic.
Even though inflation and COVID-19 did not dampen holiday
sales last year, the NRF said retailers should be prepared for
challenges in the coming months due to pandemic-led uncertainty.
(Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by