By Lenore Fedow
lenore.fedow@nationaljeweler.com
Retail sales were down 1 percent month-over-month in November to $546.5 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
New York—Consumer spending in the United States fell in November as the number of new COVID-19 cases climbed.

Retail sales were down 1 percent month-over-month in November to $546.5 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, but up 4 percent year-over-year.

It marks the second straight monthly decline after October retail sales were revised to show sales were down 0.1 percent, rather than up 0.3 percent as previously stated.

The newly revised data makes October’s decline the first since April, at the height of the lockdown.

“Consumers held back on spending in November as virus rates spiked, states imposed retail restrictions and congressional stimulus discussions were gridlocked,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release about the results.

Additional fiscal stimulus from Congress is needed, he said, adding he’s hopeful Congress will pass a COVID-19 relief package soon.

The NRF is still expecting a strong holiday season. Its forecast calls for retail sales to increase as much as 5 percent and it noted that sales are up year-over-year.

The majority of jewelers National Jeweler interviewed in early December and again this week have indicated they are having a surprisingly strong season and expect it to finish that way.


“The month-over-month decline isn’t surprising because some spending was pulled forward into October by campaigns encouraging consumers to shop early and shop safe,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

While optimistic, Kleinhenz noted that the remainder of the holiday season depends on the virus. If COVID-19 continues to spread, spending will likely decline.

The NRF does its own calculation of monthly retail sales, narrowing in on core retail and excluding auto sales, gas stations, and restaurants.

Its November data shows sales were down 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from October, but up 9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Year-over-year comparisons give a clearer picture of long-term trends, said the NRF.

On a year-over-year basis, retail sales have increased every month since May under the NRF’s calculation and every month since June under the Census Bureau calculation.

Retail sales during the first 11 months of the year are up 7 percent year-over-year, said the NRF.

By sector, November saw year-over-year gains in seven out of nine retail categories. Online sales, building materials and sporting goods stores saw double-digit increases.


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