Retails sales cheerier in November

Retail sales were cheerier in November, a good sign for the crucial holiday shopping season. 

Sales were up a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent last month, the biggest gain in eight months and an increase from 0.5 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

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Sharply falling gasoline prices have helped put more cash into consumers' pockets at a critical time of the year for retailers hoping to boost sales amid a strengthening labor market. 

“Increasing wages combined with lower gas prices are providing retailers with an early holiday present this year,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Employers added 321,000 jobs last month, the biggest jump in nearly three years. 

“Healthy November sales should provide momentum for an even stronger December as customers continue to seek out deals all the way to Christmas," Kleinhenz said. 

The NRF said shoppers were snapping up good deals and that gains are consistent with NRF’s holiday sales forecast — an increase of 4.1 percent over last year.

“As we’ve said all along, retailers are optimistic that they will see healthy holiday sales gains this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

Shay said while shoppers are taking advantage of early promotions they also are showing signs they may wait until the end of the season when promotions blossom.

“It is important to remember that for most retailers, the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are plenty of important holiday shopping days ahead of us, including the week leading up to Super Saturday — the day many expect will be the biggest shopping day of the season,” Shay said.

Overall, sales are up 5.1 percent in the past year. 

Every retail area from building materials to sporting goods showed a sales increase last month.

Auto sales also picked up pace, increasing 1.7 percent last month. 

Excluding autos, gasoline stations and restaurants, retail sales increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted over October.