Retail sales off to solid start in Nov.

With cold weather across much of the country driving sales of seasonal goods, and sales of home furnishings still going strong, same-store retail sales came in better than expected during the first week of November, with both department stores and discounters running ahead of plan.

The widely watched Redbook Retail Sales Average showed same-store sales ticking up by 1.0 percent above year-ago levels, compared with a far lower target of a skimpy 0.2 percent increase. Measured against the first week of October, sales rose by 0.9 percent, compared with a target of flat sales.

"November began positively as falling temperatures triggered demand for demand for seasonal goods," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Retailers reported an upswing in sales across a broad range of cool-weather apparel categories, as if shoppers were squeezing several weeks worth of sporadic seasonal buying into a much shorter period. Stop-and-go patterns like this have been evident recently, leading to sales volatility and making it more difficult to forecast trends."

Home furnishings, Levis noted, as well as jewelry and electronics, "did well as special promotions drew in customers."

November, the analyst observed, "is a transitional month in which retailers clear unsold fall merchandise and prepare for the holiday season. Thanksgiving falls in the final week, six days later than last year. Sales forecasts for this month and next take into account calendar considerations that may color results. Notably, stores will shift more strong post-Thanksgiving sales into December, benefiting that month at the expense of November."

Breaking sales out on a regional basis, "the Northeast and Midwest showed the largest gains," Levis reported.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of November

Week ended 11/9 11/16 11/23 11/30 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -0.6 -0.6 -2.2
Discounters 2.2 2.2 1.8
Redbook Average 1.0 1.0 0.2

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