Consumers opened their wallets in October, leading to a rise in retail sales despite the 16-day government shutdown which analysts feared would negatively impact market figures. Figures released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, Nov. 20, reveal that sales rose a healthy 0.4 percent, up from a flat reading in September and higher than analysts' expectations of 0.1 percent.
Total sales last month reached $428.1 billion, a 3.9 percent increase from October 2012. The growth is largely attributed to higher sales in autos, clothing and furniture, economists said. Core sales, a category that excludes spending on autos, building supplies and gas, rose 0.5 percent, up from a 0.3 percent gain in September.
Other key findings from the report show a large 1.4 percent rise in vehicle sales from September to October, rocketing up 11.9 percent year over year. Also, gas station sales fell 0.6 percent during the month, the result of lower prices at the pump, which historically increases spending in other categories.
Electronics and appliances saw a 1.4 percent increase from September and a 4.8 percent surge year over year. Clothing and accessories stores saw the same monthly upswing, a boost of 3.8 percent year over year.
While the slight growth is a positive, it still reflects a slowly recovering economy. Economists attribute the stall to the still-high unemployment rate and sluggish wage growth. Nonethless, the retail sales figure is a major marker of industry health, especially leading into the critical holiday shopping season. With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, retailers are nervous that a slowly recovering economy paired with a shorter holiday season could make for weak retail revenue.
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