If Congress was looking for any evidence that additional relief for Americans was needed, the November Retail Sales report should provide some ammunition. At the headline level, Retail Sales fell 1.1%, which was nearly four times the decline of consensus forecasts. Stripping out Autos and Gas, the numbers were just as bad. As if that wasn’t enough, October’s report was also revised significantly lower dropping from a gain of 0.3% at the headline level to a decline of 0.1%. Adding it all together, Retail Sales for November were 1.5% lower than what was originally reported in October’s report.
Breadth in this month’s report was also weak. Of the thirteen sectors that comprise the total pie, all but three of them were lower on the month. If you were expecting a new sweater this Christmas, don’t hold your breath as sales of Clothing were down close to 7%. Other big decliners included Bars & Restaurants (-3.99%) and Electronics & Appliances (-3.49%). With more cities imposing restrictions on activity, sales at Gas Stations also declined 2.41%. Were it not for the historic declines we saw earlier this year, drops of this magnitude would be considered pretty steep, but after the COVID shutdowns, nothing is a surprise anymore. Not every aspect of the Retail Sales report was weak, though. Bright spots included Food & Beverage Stores, Building Materials, and Online– all sectors you would expect to see hold up well as Americans hunker down.
The characteristics behind the total level of sales have changed markedly in the post-COVID world. In our just-released B.I.G. Tips report, we looked at these changing dynamics to highlight the groups that have been the biggest winners and losers from the shifts. For anyone with more than a passing interest in how the COVID outbreak is impacting the economy, our monthly update on retail sales is a must-read. To see the report, sign up for a monthly Bespoke Premium membership now!