By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / January 7, 2011
Bay State merchants rang in a huge holiday as sales surged 7.6 percent, far outpacing both the nationwide increase and the 4.3 percent jump projected by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
Despite a storm that dumped 18 inches of snow in Boston in late December, stores in the state reversed a three-year slide with robust revenues that almost returned to 2007 levels.
Retailers selling merchandise with higher prices, such as furniture and jewelry, had a particularly strong season. Many saw double-digit increases over last year’s revenues, according to the association, which surveyed half of its 3,100 members.
“We outpaced the nation because our economic cycle is ahead of other regions and our sales fell further in the downturn than the drops for the nation as a hole,’’ said Jon Hurst, the group’s president. “Hopefully, the consumer momentum shown in these holiday results will be sustained in 2011.’’
Merchants across the country also enjoyed a boost in spending and saw their best holiday since 2006. Revenue at stores grew 3.8 percent in Novem ber and December, compared with the same period last year, according to an index compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
In Massachusetts, discounter TJX Cos., which operates retail chains such as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, said yesterday that sales at stores open at least a year jumped 2 percent, beating the Framingham company’s expectations.
“I am extremely pleased with December’s sales results, as we significantly exceeded our plans during this important period,’’ chief executive Carol Meyrowitz said in a statement. “Our . . . growth was achieved on top of a very strong 14 percent increase last year, a much more difficult comparison than those faced by most other retailers.’’
Joseph Kelliher, co-owner of Westwood Furniture, said holiday sales were ahead 18 percent over 2009’s at his store.
“We are gratified at the results, however we also temper that with the realization that it is only as good as it was back in 2008,’’ he said. “I thought 2008 was a really lousy year until I got to 2009. In 2009, there was no consumer confidence. In 2010, it came back some. We’re hoping it continues to improve in the coming year.’’
Jim Beatty of Nauset TV & Sound in Orleans said holiday sales rose about 20 percent and revenues have returned to 2008 levels.
“In 2009, it was doom and gloom. This holiday, people’s attitudes seemed to change and they want better equipment,’’ Beatty said.
Erin Mayes of South Boston said she has been loosening her purse strings. She spent $4,000 during the holiday season — $1,000 to $2,000 more than she normally spends.
“Business has been better,’’ said the 26-year-old about her Cambridge hair salon. She said she plans to keep spending more this year as the economy improves.
Although many retailers saw higher sales, a number of major chains fell below Wall Street’s expectations, including Target Corp. and Gap Inc.
Ken Perkins, of Retail Metrics in Swampscott, said aggressive promotions in November may have pulled sales from December, and deep discounts cut into revenues.
Some retail analysts raised concerns that the shaky December performance by some merchants could signal a slowdown in the economic recovery. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of US economic activity, is critical to the overall health of the economy.
BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc., based in Natick, reported this week that December merchandise sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.4 percent, compared with prior guidance of a 3 to 4 percent increase.
“Performance for the month of December was good, but uneven, with apparel specialty stores feeling more promotional pressures coupled with some weather issues that cut into their sales,’’ Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research for International Council of Shopping Centers, said in a statement.
“While the December gain didn’t reach the high end of expectations, the increase did help make this year’s holiday spending season the strongest in recent years, which is welcome news for retailers.’’
Globe correspondent Alli Knothe contributed to this report. Jenn Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.