United States: Retail sales soften in November
December 13, 2019
Nominal retail sales rose 0.2% month-on-month in seasonally-adjusted terms in November, moderating from the revised 0.4% increase in October (previously reported: +0.3% month-on-month) and markedly underwhelming market expectations of a 0.5% surge. The disappointing outturn signaled consumers were more conservative with spending, despite the key holiday shopping season and Black Friday deals. That said, a later Thanksgiving this year, which pushed Cyber Monday into December, could be partly responsible for softer-than-expected sales.
Retail sales excluding cars, gasoline, building materials and food services—also known as core retail sales as they most closely reflect private consumption in the GDP readings—grew 0.1% on a month-on-month basis in November, down from 0.3% in October.
The performance across business categories was mixed in November. Sales at clothing and accessories; sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores; and food services and drink places all fell at a sharper rate in the month. Moreover, sales at general merchandise stores, and motor vehicle and parts dealers weakened. More positively, electronics retailers saw sales rebound in November, while non-store retail sales, which include online shopping, edged higher, likely boosted by Black Friday sales.
In annual terms, retail sales growth rose 3.3% in November, up from 3.2% in October. Meanwhile, annual average retail sales growth dropped edged down to a near three-year low of 3.2% in November from 3.3% in the prior month.