Retailers are looking to healthy holiday shopping to reverse the Commerce Department's report Thursday that retail sales slipped 0.1 percent in November, the first decline in six months.
Retail sales declined to $151.6 billion last month after gaining a revised 0.2 percent in October, the government said.The sales decline was the first in six months, the government said. Excluding automobile sales, November's overall retail sales would have gained 0.2 percent.
Economists said the report shows some weakness in consumer buying patterns, but is not yet troublesome enough to cast a pall over the lucrative holiday buying season.
"The world didn't end in November," said Robert Dieli, an economist at the Northern Trust Co. in Chicago. "Consumers apparently are still planning to have a Christmas."
Dieli said the forecast for the holiday season remains mixed. Fearing poor consumer confidence in the declining economy will keep shoppers away from stores, retailers have engaged in prices wars to attract customers.
"From what I hear, sales traffic is pretty good. People are responding to promotions," Dieli said. "People are buying but not buying at prices that will allow merchandisers to make a profit.
November's sales were 3.4 percent above year-earlier sales and sales between September and November were 3.6 percent greater than during the same period last year, the government said.
Sales of durable goods, those big-ticket items designed to last three or more years, fell 1.4 percent in November.
Non-durable goods sales increased 0.5 percent from October and 6.1 percent from year-earlier levels. Higher food and gasoline prices accounted for the increase.
Grocery sales increased 5.4 percent in November from year-earlier levels while sales at gasoline stations soared 21.6 percent during the same period.
Gasoline stations reported sales of $11.9 billion in November, up from $11.8 billion in October.
The government's advance estimates show sales decreased slightly at general merchandise stores during November from October, but gained at apparel stores and restaurants.
Car dealers reported slightly lower sales during the past month as did sellers of building materials. Sales at car dealerships slid 1.4 percent last month from the month before but were 0.1 percent higher than year-earlier sales levels.
The sluggishness in the nation's construction industry continued to hammer sellers of building supplies, where sales were down 2.6 percent in November and 5.2 percent from year-earlier