WASHINGTON — Sales for U.S. furniture and home furnishings stores finished the year on a high note, up 3.1% from the same period a year ago, posting the seventh consecutive monthly gain after pandemic lows during the spring lockdown.
Sales for the sector increased to $10.11 billion from $9.81 billion in December 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce report out today. Sales slipped 0.6% from November sales, which were adjusted down to $10.17 billion from the previously reported $10.31 billion.
Combined retail and food services sales increased 2.9% from December a year ago to $540.9 billion and were off 0.7% from November. Retail trade sales alone climbed 6.3% year-over-year and decreased 0.3% from November.
While furniture store sales growth outpaced the combined sectors, the results were still middle of the road. The top-performing sector again was non-store retailers, mostly e-commerce companies, up 19.2% year-over-year, but down 5.8% from November. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores, were up 15.2% from December a year ago, and off 0.8% from November. Auto and auto parts dealers also had a good December, up 10.1% year-over-year and 1.9% ahead of November.
Department stores, a sub-category of general merchandise stores, fell to the bottom of the pack again, with December sales down 21.4% year-over-year and down 3.8% from November. That year-over-year decrease was even worse than the 21.2% decline for restaurants and bars, among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Electronics and appliance stores had a rough go, too, with December sales off 16.6% from a year ago and down 4.9% from November.
For the fourth quarter, October through December, furniture and home furnishings store sales increased 3.5% from the fourth quarter a year ago. Combined retail and food services sales increased 4.0% from the same period in 2019, and non-store retailer sales jumped 24.3%.