Mass. Businesses Report Sluggish Holiday Sales Season

Local small businesses saw the dollar amount in holiday sales increase by just more than 1 percent last year over the 2021 holiday shopping season, well shy of the 4 percent annual increase that the Retailers Association of Massachusetts said is typical.

RAM said Thursday that a survey of its members found a 1.2 percent increase in sales during November and December and an apparent drop in the overall number of sales. The small business group said 50 percent of the member companies that responded said the number of holiday transactions dropped from 2021 levels and that another 25 percent said holiday sales were flat last year.

“Although the overall year was a success for Main Street merchants, the slower holiday season may be a cautionary warning for 2023,” RAM President Jon Hurst said. “Inflation and rising interest rates are affecting consumers and small businesses alike, and keeping balance sheets in positive territory both at home and on Main Street is becoming a challenge.”

For the entirety of 2022, RAM said its members saw an average annual dollar sales increase of 5.4 percent compared to 2021. Nearly three-quarters of responding member companies said their profits were down (43 percent) or flat (31 percent) in 2022, which RAM attributed to increased operating costs for the businesses.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Consumer Price Index increased 6.5 percent in the 12-month period ending with December, a slowdown from the 7.1 percent increase through November and “the smallest 12-month increase since the period ending October 2021,” BLS said. 

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