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NRF reports flat October sales

Published 16 November 2009

The National Retail Federation (NRF), a retail trade association in Washington DC, reported that retail industry sales were flat in October 2009 compared to September 2009.

The report, which excludes automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, represents a 1.3% drop compared to 2008. The NRF found mixed signals in the data, which it draws from the US Commerce Department’s monthly sales report. The Commerce Department reported slight gains in a number of business categories. General merchandise stores were up 0.8%, while department stores specifically saw a 0.3% gain. Food and beverage stores were up 0.1%, and grocery stores in particular rose 0.2%. Health and personal care stores were up 0.5%. As with the previous two months of August and September 2009, building material and garden equipment dealers were one of the few categories to see a drop compared with the July 2009 declining 2.4%. Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.8%, while electronics and appliance stores dropped 0.6%, indicating that consumers are avoiding big home and garden purchases as the holiday season approaches. Rosalind Wells, chief economist of NRF, said that while categories like apparel, sporting goods, books, music and personal care fared well, housing-related categories such as furniture and home improvement continued to struggle indicating that the though the situation has shown signs of betterment, the industry is not yet out of complete trouble. Industry experts forecast that flat sales are likely to continue through the Christmas holiday season. Consulting firm BDO Seidman released a survey on November 16, 2009 that projects a slight, 1.8% growth in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in 2009. Ted Vaughan, partner for BDO Seidman’s retail and consumer product practice said that with the figures indicated by the non-auto sectors, the overall sales for the holiday season are expected to be flat.