skip navigation

By the Numbers

Featuring brief segments of economic analysis from our senior economist Michael Bazdarich, PhD.

The economic analysis we previously featured in By the Numbers is now available on the Western Asset Blog. This page will no longer be updated.

November Retail Sales Growth Slows, Following Better October Gains

November retail sales data showed some slowing in growth, which was a disappointment given that better October gains had further stoked post-election animal spirits in the financial markets. Headline retail sales were up only 0.1% in November, and the October gain was revised downward by 0.2%. Our “control” sales measure, excluding cars, gasoline and building materials, was up 0.2%, with a 0.1% downward revision to October.

As seen in the accompanying chart, for the last six months as a whole, control sales rose at a 2.7% rate. This is not bad, but it is considerably slower than the 4.6% growth rate that appeared to be in place six months ago.

Within store types, sales growth was soft at vehicle dealers, electronics stores, book and sporting goods stores and, surprisingly, online retailers. The latter had been the darling of the retail analysts earlier this year. The three former store types would typically be hot sectors early in a holiday season. The one sector showing favorable sales growth in November was grocery stores, which had struggled through the first eight months of the year.

As regular readers of this column know, we try not to get too ruffled up by any one month’s number, weak or strong. A month ago, we were circumspect about the strong growth seen then, pointing out that it had been preceded by three soft sales prints over the summer months. We will provide similar perspective here.

Beneath the monthly ups and downs, retail sales growth looks steady. There are no signs of impending doom, but neither are there any substantive indications that consumer spending is set to break out of the generally modest growth trends of recent years. Consumption of services has actually decelerated this year. Goods consumption, reflected by retail sales, has performed better, but even here, growth has been less than spectacular, and today’s news only sustains this narrative.

Retail Sales Trends
November Retail Sales Growth Slows, Following Better October Gains
Source: Census Bureau. As of 30 Nov 16. “Control” retail sales is total sales less vehicle dealers, service stations and building materials stores.

Michael Bazdarich

Product Specialist/Economist

Mike brings more than 44 years of experience to his position. "By the Numbers" will address economic data releases that are pertinent to a broad range of investors.

Prior to joining the Firm in 2005, Mike ran his own consulting firm, MB Economics. He earned his PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago.

Sign up to receive email updates as new reports are released.

© Western Asset Management Company, LLC 2021. This publication is the property of Western Asset and is intended for the sole use of its clients, consultants, and other intended recipients. It should not be forwarded to any other person. Contents herein should be treated as confidential and proprietary information. This material may not be reproduced or used in any form or medium without express written permission.
Past results are not indicative of future investment results. This publication is for informational purposes only and reflects the current opinions of Western Asset. Information contained herein is believed to be accurate, but cannot be guaranteed. Opinions represented are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security and are subject to change without notice. Statements in this material should not be considered investment advice. Employees and/or clients of Western Asset may have a position in the securities mentioned. This publication has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is your responsibility to be aware of and observe the applicable laws and regulations of your country of residence.
Western Asset Management Company Distribuidora de Títulos e Valores Mobiliários Limitada is authorised and regulated by Comissão de Valores Mobiliários and Banco Central do Brasil. Western Asset Management Company Pty Ltd ABN 41 117 767 923 is the holder of the Australian Financial Services Licence 303160. Western Asset Management Company Pte. Ltd. Co. Reg. No. 200007692R is a holder of a Capital Markets Services Licence for fund management and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Western Asset Management Company Ltd is a registered Financial Instruments Business Operator and regulated by the Financial Services Agency of Japan. Western Asset Management Company Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) (FRN 145930). This communication is intended for distribution to Professional Clients only if deemed to be a financial promotion in the UK as defined by the FCA. This communication may also be intended for certain EEA countries where Western Asset has been granted permission to do so. For the current list of the approved EEA countries please contact Western Asset at +44 (0)20 7422 3000.