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Across Mass., small businesses saw less-than-stellar holiday shopping sales

People carry shopping bags in December of 2022 at Downtown Crossing in Boston. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
People carry shopping bags in December of 2022 at Downtown Crossing in Boston. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The holiday shopping season was slower than Massachusetts businesses had hoped.

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

The small business group said Thursday that a survey of its members found a 1.2% increase in sales during November and December — and an apparent drop in the overall number of sales. It added that 50% of its member companies also said the number of holiday transactions dropped from 2021 levels, and another 25% reported flat holiday sales last year.

"Although the overall year was a success for Main Street merchants, the slower holiday season may be a cautionary warning for 2023," Jon Hurst, president of the association, 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 all of 2022, the group said its members saw an average annual dollar sales increase of 5.4% compared to 2021. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said their profits were down or flat in 2022, which the group 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% in the 12-month period ending with December, a slowdown from the 7.1% increase through November and "the smallest 12-month increase since the period ending October 2021," the agency said.

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