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  • Jenny Heinzen York

Happy ending

JennyHere's some publishing business insider information. Sometimes we have to go to press really early.

Such was the case with the January issue of Home Accents Today, which had to be put to bed (industry-speak) way back in December. Because of this timing, we were unable to report on holiday sales for 2011 - until now.

And, wow, both from the respected retail organizations and anecdotally from you retailers, the reports really are quite good.

According to the National Retail Federation, 2011 holiday sales exceeded expectations, rising 4.1% to $471.5 billion, up from the NRF's pre-holiday forecast of 3.8% growth.

"The right mix of strong promotions, lean inventories and an emphasis on value put retailers in the perfect position to end the year on a high note," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "A better-than expected holiday season is welcome news for an economic recovery that continues to be sluggish, and demonstrates retail's powerful role as an engine of growth."

But the good news didn't end alongside 2011. "Though we are seeing evidence that the economy still has a critical hold on consumers' purchase decisions, this strength in spending could continue into 2012," said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist.

And how about this nugget: Sales at home and home furnishings stores increased 1% seasonally adjusted from November and a solid 5.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

So that's a bit of the official word. The word from the retail "horse's mouth" was similarly upbeat.

Here are some of the comments gathered by Susan Dickenson and Meredith Schwartz at the recent Atlanta market:

"Our holiday sales were better than we expected. We put our Christmas out a week before Halloween and people started shopping immediately. And they kept shopping all through the season."

"Our holiday sales this past Christmas were wonderful! We do a lot of furniture and that seemed up more, and more high-end stuff was moving."

"Our holidays were great - best ever. And this was also our best year ever."

"We had a great year. Holiday especially."

"Our holiday sales were great. Last year, we were selling mostly furniture.
This year we exploded with gift, home décor and Christmas decorations."

"Christmas went really well. We're up for the holiday season."

And it was apparent at the Atlanta show (the only one we got to attend before going to press with this issue), that retailers such as these were in the mood to shop and spend. The crowds at that market really did resemble the "good old days." It was great to see.

Onward and upward. It looks like it may really be happening.

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