Retail sales in U.S. decrease for first time in four months

Retailer Responses

The Commerce Department said it received responses from 2,579 retailers last month, within the 12-month range of replies it had received.

“Even though the we cannot isolate the effect, we did receive indications from the companies that the hurricane had both positive and negative effects on the retail sales data,” the Commerce Department said in a statement.

Eight of 13 major categories showed a decline last month, led by auto dealers and building material stores.

Sales decreased 1.5 percent at automobile and parts dealers after a 1.7 percent gain the prior month, today’s report showed. Industry figures showed sales fell to a 14.2 million pace in October after Sandy slammed the East Coast during the auto industry’s busiest time of the month. Carmakers said those sales should be made up by the end of the year.

Retail sales excluding autos were little changed, today’s report showed. They were projected to rise 0.2 percent, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

Demand Pickup

Several retailers also reported a pickup in October demand despite the adverse weather. Same-store sales at Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, rose 4.1 percent, topping the 4 percent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Retail Metrics Inc. Kohl’s Corp.’s same-store sales climbed 3.3 percent, beating estimates for a 0.8 percent gain.

The retail sales category used to calculate gross domestic product, which excludes auto dealers, building-material stores and service stations, sales declined 0.1 percent after a 0.9 percent increase in the previous month.

As the holiday shopping seasons begins, Hasbro Inc.’s retail customers are “looking forward to a good year,” David Hargreaves, chief operating officer of the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toymaker, said during a call with analysts on Oct. 22. “Certainly consumer demand has held up pretty well. I think they’re sort of cautiously optimistic.”

Improving confidence could help keep sales on the rise. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment gauge advanced to a five-year high in November. Rising house prices are also shoring up wealth: The S&P/Case-Shiller index of home values in 20 cities has risen from a year earlier for the past three months, the longest positive stretch in two years.

Bloomberg News

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