Forward Intelligence: US Retail Sales | Nov 2014

The growth in US retail spending has eased lately, with the year-over-year pace dipping to 4.1% through October — the slowest rise since July. Is that a sign that consumption on Main Street will end the year on a disappointing note? Not necessarily, according to the latest run of reports from the front lines of the retail sector. The government’s November national profile of retail sales doesn’t arrive until Dec. 11, but the preliminary outlook looks mildly encouraging, based on recent figures from private sources. Here’s a summary of what the numbers are telling us at the moment for anticipating next week’s November update on retail sales from the US Census Bureau:

Same-store sales at retailers (ex-drugstores) in November increased 5.2%, according to Retail Metrics, well above the 3.0% expected gain, based on forecasts from analysts. “November was OK — certainly retailers were promotional in November, and that probably contributed to it,” Ed Yruma, an analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets, tells Bloomberg. “The week before Black Friday we saw retailers begin to pull promotions forward. We saw generally soft results for the weekend and that’s because they pulled some of those sales forward.”

Data compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) also points to a respectable rise in retail activity for November. Retail spending rose 4.9% last month, says an ICSC spokesman via Apparel News. “Sales showed a steady industry-wide performance for the month, with apparel showing a strong uptick compared to October,” says ICSC spokesman Jesse Tron. “It’s an encouraging reading for the holiday season and means we should continue to expect significant improvement over the 2013 season.”

Meanwhile, a survey published by Newtek Business Services yesterday found that the “majority of retailers underestimated the strength of retail sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.” Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek’s Small Business Authority division, explains that “while the majority of business owners expected their 2014 Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to be unchanged from a year prior, the reality is that Newtek’s own same store merchant processing volumes were up 8.89% on Black Friday and 0.54% on Cyber Monday year over year.”