Retail sales fall for 5th straight month

Government reports a 1.8% decrease; sales excluding autos down 1.6%.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
By Parija B. Kavilanz, senior writer

What impact would a General Motors bankruptcy have on the nation?
  • It would devastate the economy
  • It would be difficult, but a recovery would come
  • It would have no impact

NEW YORK ( -- Retail sales fell for the fifth straight month in November as mounting job losses last month curbed consumers' ability and willingness to spend money in stores.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell 1.8% last month, compared with a revised 2.9% drop in October, the worst monthly sales on record. October sales were originally reported to have tumbled 2.8%.

Economists surveyed by on average had forecast a decrease of 2% for November.

November is a crucial sales month for retailers since it marks the start of the important holiday shopping season. Combined sales for November and December can account for as much as 50% of merchants' annual profits and sales.

Sales excluding autos and auto parts fell 1.6% in November, compared to a revised 2.4% drop in October. Ex-auto sales were originally reported to have fallen 2.2% in October.

Economists had forecasted a decrease of 1.8% in the measure, according to

"The numbers were a little bit better and that was expected because September and October were so bad," Michael Niemira, chief economist with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

To his point, taking out the auto and gasoline station sales last month, core retail sales actually increased 0.3%, which was the first increase in that component since July.

The government report showed auto sales fell 2.8% last month. The sharp pullback in gasoline prices led to a deep 14.7% drop in sale at the pump.

But elsewhere, the report showed sales gains across retail categories. Electronics stores reported a 2.8% increase last month, sales at health and personal care stores rose 1%, clothing sellers registered a 0.8% sales gain, sales at sporting goods stores also increased 2.8%.

And department stores logged a 2.1% sales gain while general merchandise sellers reported a 1.2% increase in November sales.

Still, Niemira said these gains need to be measured against very big drops in both September and October.

"I think this is more of a technical bounce in the numbers as a result of much easier month-over-month comparisons, and it doesn't really reflect any fundamental improvement in consumer spending," he said.

Niemira's theory is supported by ongoing weakness in another gauge - same-store sales. Leading store chains, with the exception of discounter Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), reported declines in their November sales at stores open at least a year, which is a key measure of retail performance known as same-store sales. To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.