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NRF: October sales show retailers ‘still not out of the woods’

Washington – Retail industry sales last month fell 1.3% compared to a year ago and were flat when seasonally adjusted from September, according to the National Retail Federation.

“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,” said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. Her conclusion: The industry “is still not out of the woods.”

October retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 1.4% from September but fell 1.7% compared to October 2008.

Categories related to the home were universally off. Furniture and home furnishing stores were down 0.8% seasonally adjusted for the month-to-month and down 7.6% year-over-year. Building material, garden equipment and supplies stores dropped 2.4% from September and declined 16.6% from same period a year ago.

Categories showing the most life scored only modest gains. Clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 0.4% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 3.6% unadjusted year-over-year. Health and personal care were up 0.5% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and up 3.8% unadjusted from October 2008. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores saw a monthly sales decline of 1.2% seasonally adjusted, but increased a solid 3.0% unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF reaffirmed its holiday forecast of a 1.0% decline in sales. The association defines the holiday season as November and December.


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