Retail Spending Posted Huge Decline In November

American retail expenditures declined 0.6% between October and November, according to data released on Thursday by the Census Bureau.

Consumers spent $689.4 billion last month on retail and food services, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday differences, according to the agency’s advance estimates. The metric has risen 6.5% year-over-year, while sales between September and November have risen 7.7% since the same time frame last year.

“Retail sales fell on a month-over-month basis in November for the third time in five months,” Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman said in comments provided to The Daily Wire. “The year-over-year gain of 6.5% is below the headline inflation rate and marks the slowest year-over-year retail sales growth since 2020. This is perhaps the strongest evidence yet that consumers are pulling back, and it comes at a critical time of year for retailers.”

The lackluster expenditure data come as the National Retail Federation, a trade association representing department stores, chain restaurants, and similar entities, predicts that holiday retail sales will increase between 6% and 8% since last year to possibly surpass $960 billion. The organization claimed that the Census Bureau data indicate Americans’ willingness to spend despite persistent inflationary pressures.

“Holiday shoppers are demonstrating resilience, and retailers are providing great products and experiences at the right price levels to help stretch household budgets,” National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay remarked in a press release. “Consumers have been shifting back to in-store shopping for a more traditional holiday shopping experience, and we expect record participation for this year’s Super Saturday shopping weekend.”

Consumers are expected to allocate $832 for gifts, decorations, food, and other expenditures during the holiday season, in line with averages seen over the past decade, according to the National Retail Federation. For non-store and online sales, the group predicts growth between 10% and 12% as consumers increase their reliance upon online shopping.

The retail sales data also come after a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Tuesday showed inflation rising 7.1% year-over-year as of last month, falling below analysts’ forecasts as policymakers at the Federal Reserve increase target federal funds rates to combat rising price levels. Central bankers hiked rates by three-quarters of a percentage point on four consecutive occasions before raising rates by half a percentage point on Wednesday.

“Back in August, 84% of projected holiday shoppers told us they would be looking for money-saving tactics this year, led by seeking more discounts, buying less stuff, and starting earlier,” Rossman continued. “All three predictions seem to have come true. Consumers are very hesitant to pay full price this year.”

Households appear to be spending beyond their means amid elevated price pressures. The total level of consumer loans increased from $1.5 trillion at the beginning of President Joe Biden’s tenure to $1.8 trillion as of last month, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the personal savings rate has dropped from 20% to below 3% over roughly the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, marking a significant decline from typical rates witnessed before the lockdown-induced recession.

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