Retail Sales Surge in November

Census BureauWASHINGTON-The onset of the holiday shopping season brought a boost to the U.S. retail economy last month. Total retail sales rose 0.7 percent over October and finished 4.7 percent ahead of November 2012, according to this morning’s report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among the retail channels that sell home goods, furniture and home furnishings stores posted gains of 1.2 percent month over month and 9.7 percent year over year. General merchandise stores’ sales were 0.1 percent over October and 1.2 percent greater than November of last year. Department stores (excluding leased departments) reported an increase of 0.3 percent over October and a 2.6 percent sales decline compared to last year’s November.

In its analysis of November sales, The Conference Board characterized consumer spending in November as “selective” (with the exception of auto dealers and auto parts dealers, whose sales jumped 1.8 percent ahead of October and 10.2 percent over last November). The board said consumers are winding down paying off old debt but remain cautious about buying big-ticket items (other than necessity-driven car purchases) in a still-slow economy. “Retailers, saddled with overstocked inventory, are likely to resort once more to discounting in order to overcome this consumer caution,” the board said.

Noting that consumers are showing a willingness to spend during this holiday season, Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the National Retail Federation, said retailers will continue to compete with each other through the balance of the season with promotions and deals. Kleinhenz added that this morning’s report “bodes well for a solid holiday sales season and may provide the foundation for accelerating economic growth and momentum in the New Year.