The holiday selling season got off to a good start, according to the latest sales stats from the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the agency’s monthly retail tally, total sell-through rose 2.1 percent in November, unadjusted year-over-year, and excluding car dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

Online and other direct-to-consumer sellers had the best month, with sales up 7.2 percent from November 2018, while sales at furniture and home furnishings stores edged up 1.4 percent, and electronics and appliance stores slipped 1.7 percent.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry’s leading trade group, the sales results were softened by calendar shifts. “November showed modest growth on the surface, but you have to remember that the late timing of Thanksgiving delayed the beginning of the busiest portion of the holiday season and pushed Cyber Monday’s billions of dollars of retail sales into December,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “These numbers are more about the calendar than consumer confidence. Consumer spending has been solid, and there’s still a lot of spending to be done. With strong employment and higher wages, we’re on track for a strong holiday season.”

Indeed, the NRF is projecting an increase of 3.8 percent to 4.2 percent in holiday sales for the months of November and December, totaling upwards of $731 billion, compared to an average increase of 3.7 percent for the prior five years.

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