Preliminary reports show November retail sales up

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. shoppers spent more in November, preliminary sales reports and new data show, as they responded to “Black Friday” deals and promotions that began early in the month.

The news comes a day after data showed “Cyber Monday” was the biggest one-day online shopping day ever, and adds to the hope that this holiday shopping season will be less muted than the last two.

But Americans are still spending cautiously as they face high unemployment and an uncertain economy. Analysts expect holiday sales to rise only a few percentage points overall.

Revenue in stores open at least a year, a key measurement of a retailer’s fiscal health, is expected to rise 3.6 percent in November, according to a poll of analysts by Thomson Reuters.

And a positive November might simply mean consumers lured by discounts pushed holiday spending into November from December.

MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all transactions including cash, released data Thursday showing spending on family and children’s clothing rose more than 10 percent in November, with all types of clothing recording growth. Teen clothing was particularly strong, up 12 percent. Women’s clothing was up about 4 percent and men’s clothing was up 7 percent.

“November numbers are in good shape, it is a very solid first part of the holiday season,” said Mike McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse.

Spending on luxury goods rose 1.6 percent. Electronics were down 1 percent, reflecting lower prices for items such as flat-screen TVs.

Overall online sales rose 12 percent during the month, according to SpendingPulse figures.

Meanwhile, many retailers were set to report revenue in stores open at least one year on Thursday. Among early reports, teen retailers Aeropostale Inc., Zumiez Inc. and Hot Topic Inc. all reported November revenue in stores open at least a year that beat expectations.

On Wednesday, Research firm comScore Inc. said online spending rose 16 percent from a year ago to $1.03 billion on the Monday after Thanksgiving, the first one-day spending total above $1 billion.

Since the beginning of November, online sales are up 13 percent to $13.55 billion, according to comScore. Shoppers responded to the deals and bargains they found online, comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said. Whether they continue to do so in December isn’t yet clear.

“While we anticipate that there will be more billion-dollar spending days ahead as we get deeper into the season, only time will tell if overall consumer online spending remains at the elevated levels we’ve seen thus far,” he said in a statement..

The Cyber Monday figures come a day after a report showed American’s confidence in the economy rose to a five-month high in November.

Another positive sign Wednesday: the Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 2 percent, enough to erase nearly two weeks of losses. Analysts said investors concluded that a stronger job market would support higher stock prices.

According to ShopperTrak figures, revenue at stores in shopping malls was flat over the weekend following Thanksgiving, but traffic rose 2.8 percent.

ComScore said the number of buyers online increased at a slower rate than total spending, up 4 percent to 9 million. The average shopper spent 12 percent more, at $114.24 each, according to the data.

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