WASHINGTON: The US holiday shopping season got off to a robust start in November, sending the US retail sector surging along with higher gasoline sales, according to government data released on Thursday (Dec 14).
Online retailers like Amazon, as well as department stores, clothing retailers, furniture and electronics outlets and gas stations all had banner months, offsetting sagging auto sales, the Commerce Department reported
Total retail and food services sales rose 0.8 per cent over October, with American consumers plunking down US$492.7 billion, according to the seasonally-adjusted figures. The result handily overshot analyst expectations, which called for an increase of only 0.3 per cent.
Consumer spending last month was 5.8 per cent higher than in November of last year.
Adding to the good news, October's sales were revised upward by three tenths of a percentage point, further supporting the view that consumers could boost GDP growth in the final quarter of the year.
Within the strong report, the auto sector struggled last month, with sales falling 0.2 per cent from October's solid performance.
Non-store retailers continued to surge, rising 2.5 per cent, but even the long-suffering department store sector had a brighter month, increasing 0.3 per cent over October.
Electronics and appliance stores jumped 2.1 per cent - which analysts said likely was driven by sales of the new iPhone. Meanwhile, the housing sector continued to drive significant spending: furniture stores and building material suppliers gained 1.2 per cent.
November sales are not always a good indication of how the season as a whole will turn out, Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a client note.
But with record high consumer confidence and inflation-adjusted incomes beginning to rise, "people have the wherewithal to continue spending at a robust pace," he said.