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Retail Sales Rose Slightly in November as People Shopped Earlier for the Holidays

Retail sales in November grew slightly, as more people shopped well in advance of the holiday season.

Overall sales for the month were $639.8 billion, marking a 0.3% jump from October, according to a monthly report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales were up 18.2% compared with November 2020. Between September 2021 and November 2021, total sales were up 16.2% compared to the same period in 2020.

Retail sales grew 0.2% from October 2021 and 16.1% from November 2020. Gasoline sales were up 52.3% year over year and food and drink services were up 37.4%.

The modest growth in November follows a pattern of strong sales in October, September and August after consumer activity in July dipped 1.1% from June. The recent upward spending pattern also comes amid record-high inflation. Consumer prices rose by 6.8% in November compared to a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report. This number represents the highest inflation rate since the 12-month period ending in June 1982.

Online prices in November also rose a record 3.5% compared to 2020, according to Adobe data released last week. This growth marks the highest price jump recorded by Adobe since 2014, when it started recording digital sales. Prices were down 2% compared to October as retailers roll out holiday discounts.

“Despite economic headwinds, November retail sales data confirms that consumers continue to spend, as demonstrated by a 14 percent increase in sales year-over-year,” said National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement. “We expect demand will remain strong through December, even though consumers started holiday shopping earlier than ever this year.”

In November, sales growth was led by increases in clothing, sporting goods and furniture stores, NRF data showed. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.5% month-over-month.

While consumers shopped earlier this year, the holiday shopping season is still only half completed, NRF pointed out. As such, NRF predicts that sales through Dec. 31 could grow as much as 11.5% year over year. This number is higher than NRF’s initial forecast of between 8.5% and 10.5% growth and would set new holiday spending records.

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