Auto and Gasoline Sales Help Boost November Retail Sales Growth

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 per cent of the US economy, so it is obvious why government officials, analysts and retailers are counting on solid retail growth to reinforce the notion that the economy is getting its footing again.

November’s strong showing was the best since the 2.4 per cent gains that were posted in August. Economists had widely expected just a .6 per cent gain in November, relying on reports from a wide range of retailers that suggested they were not going to deliver the post-Thanksgiving sales numbers many were hoping for.

Slight gains in auto sales and a 6 percent growth in service station sales helped the solid sales growth for November. Higher gasoline prices generated much of the improvement for service stations.

Still, you cannot just point to those areas as excluding auto and gasoline sales, more typical retail stores generated a .8 percent jump in November sales. So apparently, despite more gloomy reactions by retailers, the numbers help substantiate that consumers are more comfortable than anticipated buying gifts this holiday season.

Department store sales climbed by .7 percent and big retailer sales, including Wal-mart and Target, grew by .8 percent. Popular gift categories seemed hot as electronics and appliance retailers were up 2.8 percent for November. Hardware store sales grew by 1.5 percent. Furniture store sales were the only negative surprise as sales in this category fell by .7 percent.

Many analysts were concerned that nearly 10 percent unemployment would make it impossible for consumer spending to keep up with past year’s numbers. Consumers appear more confident in what is to come than they are worried about what is reality in the here and now. December sales will be closely watched as Americans are still deeply involved in the holiday buying season. Many mailing and shipping companies are reporting huge amounts of packages this year, as more and more consumers are turning to online retailers like Amazon and EBAY as opposed to venturing out to stores to buy.

Neil Kokemuller