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Retail sales fell 1.1% in November, biggest drop in 7 months

Posted at 4:04 PM, Dec 16, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans held back on spending during the start of the holiday shopping season, a troubling sign for retailers and the state of the U.S. economy.

U.S. retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in November, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

It was the biggest drop in seven months, and a steeper decline than Wall Street analysts had expected.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday also revised October’s report, saying that retail sales fell 0.1% that month, instead of rising 0.3% as it previously reported. Retailers had tried to get people to shop early, with Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and others offering holiday deals in October.

The report points to a weak start to the all-important holiday shopping season, which can usually account for a quarter or more of a retailer’s annual sales.

Black Friday was also a bust. Typically one of the busiest shopping days of the season, shoppers mostly stayed home after health officials warned people not to shop in person, and retailers followed suit by putting their best deals online.

Half as many people shopped inside stores this Black Friday than last year, according to retail data company Sensormatic Solutions.

“It will take a miracle to keep retail sales positive in December,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at global financial group MUFG.

It is also another sign that the pandemic is slowing the U.S. economy as stores face tighter restrictions and people stay away home.