Consumers continued to shift their spending to luxury and department stores in November, but the gains there were not enough to generate much of a positive trend for the holiday season. The real energy this season will probably arrive even later than recent years due to the number of weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the fact that procrastinators will have a Sunday Christmas Eve this year to take the season right down to the wire.

According to a survey of 54 retail chains, the International Council of Shopping Centers estimated that comp store sales rose just 2.1% for the four week retail month of November, the weakest monthly comp sales results since March of this year. ICSC had forecast a 3.0% to 3.5% increase for the month. Excluding Wal-Mart, which posted a decline for the month, ICSC estimated that comps would have been up 4.9% for the month. Luxe retailers led the growth with a 5.1% increase for the month, while the entire Department Store sector improved 4.6% for the month. Wholesale Clubs were up 3.5% while Discount Stores were up just 1.0%. Apparel Stores managed to eke out a 0.2% gain for the month.

Pacific Sunwear reported November sales of $110.9 million, an increase of 3.4% over total sales of $107.3 million during the same period last year. Total company same-store sales decreased 3.8% during the same period after improving 3.0% last year. By concept, PacSun same-store sales decreased 2.6% after improving 2.7% last year and d.e.m.o. same-store sales fell 10.0% after comping up 4.9% last year.

The girls business at PacSun was off in the low-single-digits after being up in the low-singles last year, while guys improved in the mid-single-digits on top of a mid-singles gain in November 2005. The sneaker business continues to be a burden for the chain, down in the high-twenties for guys and mid-singles for girls. At d.e.m.o., comp sales were down in the mid-teens for girls and mid-singles for guys.

In November, the comparable average transaction value was down mid-singles; average unit retail was down high-singles; and average items sold per transaction was up low-singles. Total transactions per comp store were up low-singles.

The teen retailer is facing a 1.0% improvement in last year’s December and a 4.9% gain in January before it starts coming up against falling comps. It will be interesting to see if the team can right ship before then or just wait for the easier comparisons.

Zumiez Inc.'s net sales in the month jumped 43.9% to $25.9 million from $18.0 million last year. The company's comparable store sales increased 12.1% for the four-week period on top of an 18.8% gain in the year-ago period. Management attributed the growth to “new stores and comparable store sales gains, which were driven by an increase in average unit retail and in-store transactions.” As usual for the action sports retailer, men’s sales were pointed to as the primary comp driver, though all other departments “had positive comps.”

The Buckle, Inc. saw net sales improve 8.4% to $46.1 million for the month, up from net sales of $42.5 million in the same period last year. Comparable store net sales increased 4.2% on top of a 0.3% gain last year.

>>> See the complete chart of November comp store here