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Retail Up, Home Décor Flat

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, December 18, 2006

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

It was good news for American retailers keeping their fingers crossed about Christmas sales. But it 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 changed 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 losers, were furniture and home furnishings stores, illustrating just how deferrable a purchase sheets and towels can be, as consumers decide to make-do until after the holidays.

With gas prices still high, but down just enough that consumers are driving more, gas station sales rose by 2.3%. Sales at building material and garden supply outlets rose by 1.8%; car sales gained 1.2%.

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.

Retail Sales in November
(by channel)

Winners
Electronics & appliances 4.6%
Gas stations 2.3
Bldg. mat./garden supplies 1.8
Non-store retailers 1.3
Car dealers 1.2
Health & personal care 0.9
Grocery stores 0.8
Sport. goods, books, music 0.8
Restaurants & bars 0.7
Losers
Furn. & home furn. Stores -0.1


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