Retail sales in November increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over October and were up 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year, marking the first half of the holiday season with billions of dollars in shopping left to be done, the National Retail Federation said Friday. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
“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,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “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.”
Kleinhenz noted that the year-over-year comparison was challenging because November 2018 was up an unusually strong 4.7 percent over the year before. But December 2018 was down 0.2 percent from the year before, making it likely that next month could show a strong comparison.
In addition, many consumers began their shopping early this year, with some starting before November. NRF surveys showed that 39 percent planned to begin by Halloween, and that consumers on average had completed 52 percent of their shopping as of the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
NRF’s forecast predicts that holiday retail sales during November and December will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion.
November’s results build on October’s increase of 0.2 percent month-over-month and a strong 4.1 percent year-over-year. As of November, the three-month moving average was up 3.3 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 4.2 percent in October.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall November sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from October and up 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Specifics from key retail sectors during November include:
- Online and other non-store sales were up 7.2 percent year-over-year and up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Sporting goods stores were up 4.3 percent year-over-year but down 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 4 percent year-over-year and up 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.4 percent year-over-year and up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- General merchandise stores were unchanged year-over-year but up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were down 1.2 percent year-over-year but unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.7 percent year-over-year but up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Health and personal care stores were also down 1.7 percent year-over-year and were down 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.9 percent year-over-year and down 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.