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December Retail Sales Slip 1.9% Amid Shortages and Omicron

NEW YORK (AP) – Americans, plagued by product shortages, rising prices and the arrival of omicron, slashed spending sharply in December after a surge in early spending in the fall that took helped strengthen the holiday season.

Retail sales fell 1.9% in December, seasonally adjusted, from the previous month when sales rose 0.3%, the US Department of Commerce said on Friday.

Department store sales fell 7%. restaurant sales were down 0.8% and online sales by 8.7%.

Omicron was identified by the World Health Organization in late November, and the Commerce Department’s December report is the first to capture some of its effects on consumer behavior.

The monthly retail report only covers about a third of overall consumer spending and doesn’t include money spent on things like haircuts, hotel stays, or plane tickets. , all of which tend to slow down business when anxiety about COVID-19 increases.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, is analyzing last month’s sales figures and is expected to release actual holiday sales results later Friday. It expects record growth of 8.5% and 10.5% from the period of the previous year, despite the challenges facing buyers and stores.

The omicron variant has resulted in widespread shortages of workers, so people have called in sick, including the retail industry, and supply shortages have reduced what they can sell. Stores and restaurants have reduced their opening hours or remained closed on days they were previously open.

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