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November retail sales disappoint

David Brancaccio Dec 13, 2011

For all the breathless coverage of Black Friday sales this year, the official retail sales data for November came out today and it was, in a word, ‘blah.’ Retail sales rose just 0.2 percent. Some of the sharpest minds on the subject were predicting the rise would be three times that amount.

John Champion is a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon in Atlanta. He says sales did look good in the last week of November, but the rest of the month was weak. Champion says all that hyperbole about Black Friday was what hoping and praying sounds like.

Champion says we’re simply not going to see big sales growth until we see real job growth.

Champion adds that these lean days are creating almost two tiers of retailers: Experienced ones such as Macy’s, Costco and Buckles who are doing well at the expense of the weaker ones, and the rest.

Case in point: Best Buy announcing third quarter sales were down 29 percent from the same time last year. Best Buy says it cut prices too much an in effort to stay competitive. Champion says Best Buy is in an especially competitive market — many mass merchants such as Walmart are offering electronics at the same prices.

Those optimistic retailers (and the media that cover them) will take hope in the fact that there are still 11 shopping days until Christmas, seven until Hanukkah and 12 until Kwanzaa….you get the idea.

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