November Retail Sales Provide Mixed Messages


Retail sales for November offered a mixed message as seasonally adjusted sales grew slightly but year-over-year sales were down, according to the National Retail Federation.

NRF figures for the year’s 11th month, which includes the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, rose 0.6% seasonally adjusted from October, but were down 0.8% year-over-year.

“Unlike last year, when the economic downturn caught everyone off-guard, retailers were able to plan ahead this holiday season with an eagle eye on low inventory and aggressive discounts,” said Rosalind Wells, NRF’s chief economist. “Retailers are encouraged to see momentum building in sales as they prepare for the final days before Christmas. Although November sales were encouraging, companies know that the holiday season is far from over and expect this year to come down to its usual photo finish.”
November retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.3% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and increased 1.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
General merchandise stores and drug stores, which have been bright spots in retail, continued to shine in November. General merchandise stores saw positive gains of 0.8% seasonally adjusted from October and increased 1.2% unadjusted from November 2008. Health and personal care store sales rose 0.3% unadjusted month-to-month and jumped 4.5% year-over-year.
Most categories saw month-to-month gains, demonstrating that shoppers were gearing up for the holiday season. Sales at electronics and appliance stores increased 2.8% seasonally adjusted from the previous month while decreasing 2.9% unadjusted percent year-over-year. Sporting goods, book, hobby and music stores also saw a slight month-to-month increase of 0.3%, though year-over-year sales dropped 1.3%.