U.S. holiday sales endure supply chain, Omicron snags to hit $887 bln - NRF

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 01/14/22 11:07 AM EST

Jan 14 (Reuters) - U.S. holiday sales hit a record $886.7 billion in 2021, data from a trade body showed on Friday, as people rushed to buy gifts online and in stores amid a jump in COVID-19 cases and supply chain issues that 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, marking the highest growth in at least two decades and 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.

The shopping season, the busiest time of the year for retailers, was marked by shipping delays caused by the pandemic and subsequent product shortages.

To ensure supply over the make-or-break season, some retailers such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) re-rerouted goods to less congested ports and even chartered their own vessels to get holiday items to their shelves on time.

An Omicron-led surge in coronavirus cases at the end of the year also added to retailers' woes, limiting staffing and reducing store traffic.

That led to retail sales in December, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, falling 2.7% from November, according to NRF data. E-commerce and other non-store sales, however, jumped 11.3% in the holiday season. (Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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