The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that retail industry sales for November (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a strong 7.4% unadjusted over last year and increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted from the previous month, showing a strong start to the holiday season. Total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and, restaurants) rose 0.3% seasonally adjusted from November, and increased 6.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

In the Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book, and Music Stores category, sales increased 2.4% unadjusted over November 2004 and 2.0% seasonally adjusted to account for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences. Unadjusted November sales were up 24.4% over October, but were down 0.6% on an adjusted basis. For the September to November period, sales in the category were up 1.5% over the same period last year.

“Consumers shook off concerns about higher energy costs and responded well to the seasonal promotions,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “If November is any indication of what consumers are capable of, retailers can expect a very happy holiday season.”

NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.6% this year over 2004. Holiday sales, which are defined as retail industry sales in the full months of November and December, are expected to rise 6.0% to $438.5 billion.