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Strong November raises retailers' hopes for holidays

Retail sales jumped in November as U.S. shoppers ramped up their spending as the crucial holiday season began.

Retail sales in November increased 0.9% over October on a seasonally adjusted basis and were up 6% year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. Online and other non-store sales increased 10.5% year-over-year.  (The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

"This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation and a heathy balance sheet along with elevated consumer confidence has led to solid holiday spending by American households.”

Craig Johnson, president of retail research and consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, noted that, for the first time in years, growing spending momentum is evident across all demographics, not just among upper income quintiles. His firm raised its holiday forecast from 4.3% growth to 5.6% growth, the best increase since 2005.

Holiday 2017 is poised to turn out better than many expected — and may well be a lot better,” Johnson said. “After years in hibernation, consumers are finally flexing their spending muscles."

There were broad-based monthly increases in November across most sectors with the exception of general merchandise stores, which remained unchanged. November’s results indicate that retail sales for the holiday season – defined as November and December – are on track to meet or exceed NRF’s holiday sales forecast for an increase between 3.6% and 4% over last year.

Specifics include:

• Online and other non-store sales were up 2.5% seasonally adjusted from October and up 10.5% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.1% seasonally adjusted over October and up 7.3% year-over-year unadjusted.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.2% seasonally adjusted over October and up 8.6% year-over-year unadjusted.

• Building materials and garden supplies stores were also up 1.2% seasonally adjusted from October and up 11.2% year-over-year unadjusted.

• Sporting goods stores were up 0.9% seasonally adjusted over October and up 2.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Clothing and accessories stores were up 0.7% seasonally adjusted over October and up 4.9% year-over-year unadjusted.

• Health and personal care stores were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted over October and up 3.2% year-over-year unadjusted.

• Food and beverage stores were up 0.2% seasonally adjusted over October and up 3.7% year-over-year unadjusted.

• General merchandise stores were unchanged from October but up 4.4% year-over-year unadjusted.
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