Retail up, home décor flat

Washington -- Catching Wall Street and analysts by surprise, U.S. retail sales unexpectedly surged ahead by 1.0% in November, the biggest one-month gain since July, when sales rose by 1.4%.

The boost came as a surprise to analysts who had been expecting sales to edge up just 0.2%, according to those polled by Briefing.com. Some analysts remained unconvinced -- and expect the numbers may be revised downward next month, noting that the U.S. Commerce Department in November revised the methodology it uses to calculate sales.

As consumers stock up on iPods and flat panel TVs, the nation's electronics and appliances stores were the month's clear winner, driving sales up a heady 4.6%, far outpacing any other retail channel.

At the bottom of the list, and the month's only loser, were furniture and home furnishings stores, illustrating just how deferrable a purchase of sheets and towels can be, as consumers decide to make do until after the holidays.

Illustrating the seismic shift in consumer shopping patterns in the era of the internet, non-store retailers drove their sales higher by 1.3%, but sales were flat at department stores.

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