Furniture store sales fell 4.7% in December from prior year

For the full 12 months, sales fell 5.4% compared to calendar year 2022

WASHINGTON — Furniture store sales were once again one of the worst performing retail sectors for the month of December and for all of 2023, according to the government’s latest monthly retail sales report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce this week.

For the month, furniture store sales fell 4.7% to $10.8 billion, compared to $11.3 billion in December 2022. Overall retail sales were up 5.6% in December totaling $709.9 billion, compared with $672.3 billion in December 2022.

Overall furniture store sales totaled $133.6 billion, down 5.4% compared for the full 12 months, while retail sales overall rose 3.2% to $8.3 trillion.

In December, the furniture retail sector only trailed gasoline sales, which fell 6.6% to $53.2 billion, compared to $56.9 billion in December 2022.

By comparison, department store sales fell 2.7% to $10.9 billion, from $11.2 billion the prior year. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supply dealers fell 2.3% to $41.7 billion, compared to $42.6 billion in 2022.

The sector with the largest increase was restaurants and bars, which likely benefited from holiday parties and entertaining during the month of December. Sales rose 11.1% in December, to $94.6 billion, from $85.1 billion last year. It was followed by health and beauty stores and electronics and appliance stores, each which rose 10.7% during the quarter. Health and beauty stores sales rose to $36.8 billion, from $33.3 billion, and sales at electronics and appliance stores rose to $7.7 billion from $6.9 billion.

Motor vehicle and parts dealers had a 10.3% increase, to $136.5 billion, from $123.7 billion in December last year, and non-store retailers including e-commerce retailers and catalog businesses saw sales rise 9.7% to $120.5 billion, from $109.8 billion, again likely boosted by holiday spending.

Sales at miscellaneous store retailers, including pet supply stores, religious merchandise stores, office supply stores and florists, for example, rose 6.9% to $15.8 billion, from $14.8 billion in 2022.

Clothing and clothing accessories store sales rose 4.3% to $26.6 billion, from $25.5 billion, and sales at food and beverage stores rose 1.3% to $83.1 billion, from $82.1 billion. Sales at sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and bookstores rose .9% to $8.7 billion, from $8.6 billion in December 2022.

For the year, the only other sector with a larger decrease than the 4.7% drop at furniture stores was gasoline stations, where sales fell 11.1% for the 12-month period. Building materials and garden and supplies dealers had a 3% decrease in sales in 2023 compared to 2022.

Sales at restaurants and bars, as expected, had the largest increase of the year at 11.3%, followed by health and beauty stores (up 8.5%); non-store retailers (up 8%); motor vehicle and parts dealers (up 4.2%); miscellaneous store retailers (up 3.2%); general merchandise stores, including department stores (up 2.6%); food and beverage stores (up 2.5%); clothing and clothing accessories stores (up 1.6%); electronics and appliance stores (up .6%); and sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and bookstores (up .4%).

 There was some positive news for furniture retailers. The $10.8 billion in sales reported in December still was higher than pre-pandemic levels of $10.2 billion in December 2019, $10.07 billion in December 2018, $10.06 billion in December 2017 and $9.4 billion in December 2016.  

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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