November retail sales were on par with October, but up 2.1% compared to November 2018 as the industry hit the halfway mark of the holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said today. November's numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census bureau and exclude automobile dealers, gas stations, and restaurants, the association said.
The Washington, D.C.- based trade group said year-over-year comparisons are challenging because November 2018 was up an "unusually strong 4.7%" over the previous year. They also said December 2018 was down 0.2 percent from the year-earlier period, "making it likely that next month could show a strong comparison." In addition, NRF surveys show that many consumers began their shopping earlier this year, the association said.
"November showed modest growth on the surface, but you have to remember that the late timing of Thanksgiving delayed the beginning of the busiest portion of the holiday season and pushed Cyber Monday's billions of dollars of retail sales into December," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.
November sales were up 0.1% compared to October.
"These numbers are more about the calendar than consumer confidence," Kleinhenz also said. "Consumer spending has been solid, and there's still a lot of spending to be done. With strong employment and higher wages, we're on track for a strong holiday season."
NRF's holiday forecast predicts the season will bring a retail sales increase between 3.8% and 4.2%—or $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion—for November and December.