December 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Retailers pin their fading hopes on December

Retail sales in November, excluding autos, gas and restaurants, fell 2% from 2007, the NRF reports. “With five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holiday season will come down to December’s performance,” says NRF’s Rosalind Wells.

The pressure is on retailers to salvage what they can of the holiday season between now and Christmas, according to the latest report from the National Retail Federation, the retailer trade association.

Retail sales in November, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, fell 2% from November 2007, the NRF reports. Including those three categories, sales were down 9% in November from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

On the web, sales were up the first week in November, compared to a year earlier, then down the next two weeks, then up slightly in the last week. For the five weeks of Nov. 1 to Dec. 7, online sales were flat compared to the same period a year ago, comScore Inc. reports.

“Thanksgiving came too late in the month for retailers to see strong November sales,” says the NRF’s chief economist Rosalind Wells. “With five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the holiday season will come down to December’s performance.”

Electronics and appliance store sales were down 5.4% in November from the year earlier. Clothing and clothing accessories store sales were down 7.4%. Health and personal care store sales increased 2.3% year-over-year. Sales at general merchandise stores, which include discounters, were up 1.3% from last year.

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