NRF: November Retail Sales Up 5.1%

Retail industry sales for November (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 5.1 percent unadjusted over last year and 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted from October, according to the National Retail Federation.  

Meanwhile, November retail sales released Thursday by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 6.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year. 

“Consumers started the holiday shopping season with a bang—taking advantage of significant deals,” said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “Though November sales were strong, consumers have saved plenty of holiday shopping for December.”

According to an NRF survey conducted by BIGresearch, the average person had completed just 36.4 percent of their shopping by the end of November.

The strongest growth in the NRF survey was seen by sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores where unadjusted sales grew 11.3 percent year-over-year and 2.2 percent seasonally adjusted from October.

November retail sales also grew in many other areas. Electronics stores sales grew 6.1 percent unadjusted from last year and 2.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month; clothing and clothing accessories (which includes jewelry) stores sales rose a very strong 8.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 2.6 percent from last month.

Furniture and home furnishing stores sales also benefitted from consumers stocking up on holiday items. Sales in those stores rose 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 1.0 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

Global Insight, a market and financial analysis company, was also upbeat but a little more cautious in its assessment of the Commerce Department’s numbers.

Sales excluding gasoline were up by a more modest 0.6 percent, while “core” retail sales that feeds into real consumption spending advanced by a healthy 1.9 percent, said Brian Bethune, Global Insight U.S. Economist. In addition, core retail sales in the prior two months were revised up.

“Given the various distortions to these numbers, including a stiff upward spike in gasoline prices, and an unusually high number of calendar business days in November, it is hard to get a read on true underlying retail sales momentum, Bethune said. “However, the sales number for November looks a little stronger than expected — sales of electronics, furniture, clothing and sporting goods all registered solid increases. Combining this with the positive back revisions, real consumption spending could be up by as much as 2 percent in the fourth quarter.”

He continued, “Consumer spending is facing increasing headwinds from the recent surge in energy and gasoline prices, as well as declines in the value of housing in many metro areas across the country. But retailers are hungry for sales, and the recent stepping up of marketing programs and discounts appears to be delivering some dividends in terms of maintaining reasonably good sales momentum.”