Retail sales in the United States fell in November, with clothing stores and restaurants posting the largest declines

Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, the biggest drop in seven months and a sign that Americans curbed spending at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The US Department of Commerce also revised the October figure, saying on Wednesday that retail sales actually fell 0.1% this month instead of rising 0.3% as previously reported.

Americans have cut spending after losing a weekly boost of $ 600 to unemployment checks that expired over the summer. A rise in coronavirus infections nationwide is also keeping Americans from spending.

Buyers mostly stayed home on Black Friday, which is typically the busiest day of the holiday shopping season. Crowds in malls and stores were slim after health officials warned people not to shop in person. Retailers have followed suit by posting their best deals online. Half as many people shopped in stores this Black Friday than last year, according to retail data company Sensormatic Solutions.

The monthly decline in retail sales was most pronounced for clothing stores and restaurants, while sales by non-store retailers – mostly e-commerce – barely increased (+ 0.2%) from October . Department store sales fell 7.7% last month and 19% from November last year. The only other categories to post gains were building supply stores and food and beverage stores. Electronics and appliance stores posted declines of 3.5% from October and 8.3% from November 2019.

Wednesday’s report only covers about a third of overall consumer spending. Services such as haircuts and hotel stays, which have been severely affected by the pandemic, are not included.

November’s drop in retail sales was worse than the 0.3% drop expected by economists polled by Bloomberg.

“Weak retail data for November offers a daunting outlook for holiday sales in 2020,” Bloomberg economists Yelena Shulyatyeva and Carl Riccadonna said. The discounts much earlier this year failed to significantly boost sales during the month. Although a drop in restaurant spending came as no surprise, given COVID-related restrictions , lackluster online sales could bode well for the remainder of the holiday shopping season. ”

Total retail sales revenue was still 4.1% higher than the same period last year. Illustrating the profound changes in the sales mix, non-store retailers rose 29.2% while restaurant receipts plunged 17.2%.

Sales associate Desiree Leija, left, and store manager Ashley McGill, right, wait outside Kate Spade's storefront for shoppers at the NorthPark Center in Dallas.
Black Friday shoppers at NorthPark Center in Dallas on Friday, November 27, 2020.

Based on Bloomberg and Associated Press reports.

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Anne G. Cash

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