Chain store sales spiral down in November

U.S. chain store sales fell by a record 2.7 percent for November on a year-over-year same-store basis, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

“The November retail sales environment was an extremely difficult one with the backdrop of the recession and financial crisis still looming large in the economy,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research.

Niemira added that the poor start to the holiday season’s sales -- even adjusting for special factors -- has led ICSC Research to trim its November-December holiday sales forecast to between flat and down 1 percent.

“The main special factor in November was a tough comparison from last year with a calendar-shift drag on year-over-year sales, worth between 1.5 and 2.0 percentage points,” he said. “Looking ahead to December, ICSC forecasts that industry sales will grow by 1.5 percent.”

Target, for example, reported a same-store sales decline of 10.4 percent for November, which company executives attributed to cautious shopping early in November and fewer after-Thanksgiving shopping days for the month. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 29 fell 6 percent to $5.61 billion.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that November same-store sales rose 3.4 percent, exceeding its projections. The retailer attributed the jump to discounts on groceries, consumer electronics and Christmas decorations, as well as a drop in gas prices.

ICSC Chain Store Sales Trends is a monthly report based on publicly available sales for 37 chain stores. Industry sales aggregates are compiled for “comparable-store” or “same-store” sales and for total store sales.

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