RAPAPORT... Jewelry sales in the U.S. during November, which kicked off the Christmas shopping season, rose 9.1 percent year on year, according to preliminary government figures, maintaining a 12-month running total of $72.6 billion. Sales of watches increased 11.3 percent, representing an annual total of $9.9 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) for jewelry in November was flat, while it increased 3.9 percent for watches.
Comparatively, department store sales in November fell 4.3 percent year on year to $17.47 billion. Department store sales have had a difficult year, falling 5 percent for the first 11 months of 2013 to $150 billion.
Retail sales for all product categories in November rose 4.7 percent year on year to $432.3 billion. Retail trade sales increased 4.6 percent year on year and nonstore retail sales improved 9.4 percent compared with November 2012.
Analytics firm RetailNext determined that foot traffic to stores fell 2.8 percent year on year in November; however, conversions rose so sales improved 1 percent. When coupling Black Friday with Thanksgiving Day, overall traffic was up 1.3 percent, according to RetailNext and total sales for both days increase 5.8 percent compared with the same holiday weekend in 2012.
November's retail sales overall were a little stronger than forecast, according to Sterne Agee's chief economist, Lindsey Piegza. ''As preliminary data showed, consumers were out spending in the weeks after Thanksgiving but not spending quite as much as last year. We continue to see consumers dramatically shift the goods in their basket from month to month, rather than simultaneous strength across all categories. Last month it was apparel, electronics and miscellaneous sales; this month its building materials and non-store retailer purchases. On an annual basis the consumer still appears to be losing momentum with growth falling from a peak of near 9 percent in 2011 and remaining stagnant for the past two years at an average of under 5 percent,'' Piegza noted.
Sterne Agee concluded that a temporary reprieve from high prices at the gasoline pump, a lingering wealth effect from rising home prices and record-high equity markets have helped support consumer confidence and consumer spending.