October sales hint shoppers are buying more, but not always spending more

Shoppers are coming out of hibernation, but that doesn't mean the holiday season won't be a bear. October retail sales were up around 2 percent -- a little better than analysts had expected, and with new pockets of growth. But the reports were wildly uneven. Tallies of comparable-store sales had almost as many winners as losers.

A wrapup from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) showed every segment turned positive in October, except for the still-struggling department stores, where comparable-store sales (also called same-store sales, or sales for stores open a year or more) were down 1.1 percent. But even one part of that segment had an unexpected improvement: Luxury department stores sales were up 1.8% on a same-store basis last month.