US retail sales fell 1.1% in November, the first drop in seven months as consumers pulled out during the holiday season.
The drop marked the first month-on-month decline since April, when widespread restrictions were in place early in the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
US consumers recently curtailed spending as the pandemic created new business restrictions.
Still, total retail spending in November was $ 546.5 billion, seasonally adjusted, above the pre-pandemic level of $ 527.3 billion in February. The retail sales report covers expenses in stores, car dealerships, restaurants and online.
Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal predicted retail sales were down 0.3% in November from a month earlier.
The weakness spanned a number of key categories, with auto sales down 1.7% on a monthly basis, electronics sales down 3.5% and apparel sales down 6.8% from October. Restaurants and bars were hit hard as many cities and states introduced new pandemic-related restrictions, with receipts dropping 4% in the month.
The US economy continues to recover, but at a slower pace. Staff growth slowed in November, while claims for unemployment benefits increased recently. Total consumer spending, including retail and service consumption, has continued to increase, but more slowly than during the summer. Consumer confidence is mixed, with one survey showing a better outlook for the post-pandemic economy.
US shoppers spent less than last year over a five-day period, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as the increased online shopping was offset by fewer people visiting brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. People spent an average of just under $ 312 on holiday-related purchases from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, 14% less than in 2019, although similar to 2018, according to a study by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Retailers also pushed for an earlier start to the holiday season, both to limit crowds in stores and to ease pressure on supply chains by avoiding presale bottlenecks.
Other data shows that spending has been lagging since the Thanksgiving holiday. The tracker of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s 30 million credit and debit cardholders registered a 4.1% drop in spending from a year earlier in the week through December 11. Credit and debit card data collected by Affinity Solutions research firm and Opportunity Insights research group showed that total spend for the week ended November 29 was 11.6% lower than January.
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Retailers with significant online sales, especially those with products for home-based consumers, have fared better than companies that rely on in-person interaction.
Lululemon Athletica Inc.
reported a jump in sales and earnings last week in the most recent quarter, as pandemic weary shoppers picked up their athletic apparel and other comfy apparel, though it offered a less rosy outlook as Covid-19 surged sharply.
Carlo Castronovo, owner of Giusseppe’s Pizza & Italian Cuisine in Old Bridge, New Jersey, said the pandemic means “business is lower than ever, but we remain afloat,” as home pick-up and delivery “is certainly an issue. savior “. “
“It’s difficult, especially because everyone is nervous,” said Mr Castronovo. Normally there were catering parties in the restaurant at this time of year, “five trays of this and six trays of that – that’s definitely over,” he said.
Essential companies have done better. Costco Wholesale Corp.
reported strong quarterly sales on Thursday as household consumers spent more on food, homegoods and fitness products during the pandemic.
More people eating breakfast at home during the pandemic helped push orders for Hidden Springs Maple in Putney, Vt. Have risen. The family-owned maple syrup processor has seen a 34% sales increase across the board since March. 74% and Amazon.com Inc.
orders more than 130%. It closed its store due to the pandemic and used the space for shipping orders.
“It’s been quite a crazy ride, who knows if it will continue next year, it depends on how elastic people are with online shopping,” said manager Andrew Cooper-Ellis. This year, the company canceled its usual Black Friday promotional event to try and keep up with demand, he said.
Write to Harriet Torry at [email protected]
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