Today the U.S. Census Bureau announced that overall seasonally-adjusted retail sales in November rose 0.3% over October and 3.7% over November 2011. This follows a 0.3% monthly decline in October when sales were affected by Hurricane Sandy, which forced the closure of many stores in the heavily populated Northeast.
For the three months September through November 2012, retail sales were 4.3% over the same period in 2011. November numbers for both 2012 and 2011 include Black Friday which is generally considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
Bright spots included electronics & appliance stores (+2.5%), motor vehicle & parts dealers (+1.4%), and building materials & garden equipment & supplies dealers (+1.6%). Nonstore retailers, which includes online sales, increased 3%. On the negative side, gasoline station sales fell 4% due to a combination of declining prices and the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and general merchandise stores (largely department stores) saw their sales fall 0.9%. (All percentages reflect November gains over October. Year-over-year numbers reflected the same basic trends.)