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Retail sales up a weak 1.6% in November due in part to Sandy

November 29, 2012|By Shan Li
  • Even Black Friday purchases couldn't overcome the damage wrought on retail sales by Superstorm Sandy.
Even Black Friday purchases couldn't overcome the damage wrought… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Superstorm Sandy pummeled retail sales in November despite a robust Black Friday weekend, raising worries about whether merchants can make up enough ground during the remaining holiday season.

Major chains posted a 1.6% increase in retail sales in November compared with the same month a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 16 retailers. That's below analyst expectations of a 3.3% rise.

Sandy closed many stores in the Northeast region for days. Retailers also were hurt by the cleanup and repairs required once the weather cleared up. Even record-breaking sales over the Thanksgiving weekend did not make up for the damage that the storm wrought.

Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, blamed the below-par performance not only on the storm but also on the fact that online retailers, in effect, closed the books on the month in large part over the weekend. Therefore much of Cyber Monday sales will be counted in December instead of November.

Sales this month were also suppressed by "the strength of layaway purchases during November, which also will be booked in December once the full-payments are made," Niemira added.

There was a broad mix of stores among the month's top performers. Discount retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. reported  a 6% jump. Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said sales rose 5%. And Gap Inc., which has been showing signs of a turnaround, posted a 3% gain. 

Other retailers posted weak results. Kohl's Corp.saw sales decline 5.6%. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal Inc., which recently went through a board shakeup following more than a year of falling sales, reported its sales slipping 5.4%.

Results in the Thomson Reuters survey are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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