Retail sales creep up in October

Retail sales keep creeping upward toward the holiday season. Numbers just released by the federal government show most retail segments had higher sales in October than September but, except for a few areas, sales are still lower than even the dismal totals seen in October of last year.

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show total retail sales in October -- including autos and restaurants -- were $347.5 billion, up 1.4% from September, but still 1.7% below last October. For the year to date, only health and beauty stores and "food and drinking places" -- restaurants and bars -- had higher sales, while food stores were relatively flat. Health retailers were up 3%, eateries rose 1% and grocers went up 0.1%.

Since consumer spending makes up 70% of the economy, this is not a good sign for recovery from the recession. Consumer confidence remains in the dumps, and experts warn that shoppers will stay stingy until that mindset improves.