The Commerce Department on Thursday reported that retail sales in November rose 0.8% and it revised October sales numbers to a 0.5% gain, up from its previous estimate of a 0.2% increase. That handily beat economists’ consensus expectation cited by Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom in an email to Retail Dive. Year over year, November retail sales rose 5.8%.
Some segments did better than others, but most saw increases last month, according to the government’s report: Furniture sales rose 1.2% from October and 8.4% year over year; Apparel sales rose 0.7% from October and 2.8% year over year; department store sales rose 0.3% from October and 2.8% year over year and electronics store sales rose 2.1% since October and 6.4% year over year. E-commerce rose 2.5% from October and 10.4% year over year.
The federal numbers track with those from the National Retail Federation, which said on Thursday that retail sales in November increased 0.9% over October on a seasonally adjusted basis and 6% year-over-year unadjusted. Online and other non-store sales grew 10.5%, the organization said. Its numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.
November’s healthy sales numbers indicate a strong start to the all-important holiday retail season. Indeed, the numbers continue to show strength against the backdrop of solid consumer confidence. Online sales on Dec. 11 were 51% higher than on Thanksgiving Day, which was the fastest growing day of the "cyber five," according to data from e-commerce platform BigCommerce emailed to Retail Dive.
Together, Monday and Tuesday this week had sales that equaled 62% of the e-commerce sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which BigCommerce called a formidable second pop for retailers to handle and fulfill during the busy holiday selling season. Sales on BigCommerce’s own platform rose 13% compared to the same Monday last year.
Gordon Haskett's proprietary consumer survey also indicated strong traffic in November, while a number of retailers, including Costco, Macy’s and Wayfair have reported and/or indicated a strong start to the fourth quarter, Grom noted.
"This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. "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."
"Today’s report is indicative of a strong consumer who is confident about the current and future state of the economy," Kleinhenz continued. "The improved willingness to spend and the purchasing power of consumers will continue to be an economic driver of growth into 2018."
The healthy sales so far this month occurred despite a dearth of discounts compared to the Black Friday period: Just 16% of purchases so far this month included a discount, according to BigCommerce’s report. November’s results indicate that retail sales for the holiday season – defined by NRF as November and December – are on track to meet or exceed the group's holiday sales forecast for an increase between 3.6% and 4% over last year.