Bring on Black Friday! Retail sales increased for the fifth straight month, giving the U.S. economy an early fourth quarter gain, the Commerce Department announced today.
Overall sales rose 0.5 percent over October, following a 1.1 percent increase in September. Electronics and appliance stores posted the most robust gains, ssurging 3.7 percent, followed by building supplies and gardening equipment (1.5 percent). Auto sales, too, helped drive the increase, but excluding them, retail sales increased 0.6 percent, the best showing since March.
Clothing and accessory stores, however, were down 0.7 percent, as were furniture and home furnishing stores.
The report, the Commerce Department said in a statement, “shows a consumer much more willing to spend than sentiment surveys suggest. This bodes well for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which officially kicks off the holiday shopping season.
This year, however, there is a Black Friday creep as many retailers have announced plans to get an unprecedented early start. Enthusiastic shoppers might not even have time to digest their Thanksgiving feasts before some stores plan to open their doors.
Toys R Us, for example, announced it will open most of its stories as early as 9 p.m. on Thursday night. Wal-Mart stores will open at 10 p.m, while Target and Macy’s will open at midnight for the first time. Best Buy and Kohl’s will also open at midnight. K-Mart will give the most eager sale and bargain hunters something to be thankful for when, as they did last year, be open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. pm Thanksgiving.
The National Retail Federation projects holiday sales this year to rise 2.8 percent to $455.6 billion. This is a smaller increase than in 2010, when holiday sales increased 5.2 percent to nearly $453 billion, but a dramatic improvement from the 0.4 decrease in 2009. On average, the NRF states, holiday sales have increased 2.6 percent per year over the last decade.
Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, is a critical driver of the U.S. economy, which makes the holiday shopping season, the busiest of the year, so important. But with all this opportunity, will shoppers be knocking? Almost half of investors surveyed in October by Millionaire Corner said they will not be spending more money this holiday season than they did last year. Only about 12 percent said they would, while about 41 percent said they did not know.
Of those who look to be spending more, 40 percent are under 40. This is more than three-times the percentage of older age segments.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.