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Retail industry is still not out of the woods, NRF Economist
Nov '09
Retailers hoping for some momentum heading into the holiday season are seeing some mixed signals as some categories saw positive gains while others demonstrated weakness. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) were flat seasonally adjusted from September and fell 1.3 percent year-over-year.

“Though the October numbers show some signs of optimism for retailers, the industry is still not out of the woods,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “While categories like apparel, sporting goods, books, music and personal care fared well, housing-related categories such as furniture and home improvement continued to struggle.”

October retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.4 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month , but decreased 1.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw strong gains with sales increasing 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 3.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Health and personal care stores remain a bright spot in retail with a sales gain of 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and an increase of 3.8 percent unadjusted from October 2008. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores saw a monthly sales decline of 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted, but increased a solid 3.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Categories related to housing lagged in October, demonstrating that the housing market still has a long way to go toward recovery. Furniture and home furnishing stores were down 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted for the month-to-month and down 7.6 year-over-year. Building material, garden equipment and supplies stores dipped 2.4 percent from September and dropped 16.6 percent from same period a year ago.

NRF continues to forecast a holiday sales decline of 1.0 percent. The holiday season is defined as retail industry sales in November and December.

National Retail Federation

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