Retail sales whiff at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season

Retail sales increased by less than expected in November, the start of holiday shopping season.

Sales rose by 0.1% month-on-month (0.3% expected), according to an advance release from the Department of Commerce on Wednesday.

The headline was dragged by lower sales of cars and sporting gear. Stores that sell a range of items from office supplies to flowers — so-called miscellaneous store retailers — also recorded a drop from October. Restaurants and bars had a strong month.

Excluding autos and gas, which tend to be volatile, core retail sales rose by 0.2% (0.4% forecast). The gains in October, which were originally reported at a two-year high, were revised down.

This report captures Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping, and so it provides the first snapshot into consumer spending during the crucial holiday season. Spending makes up two-thirds of all US economic activity.

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Struggling department stores of 2016
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2016/03/08: Sears store entrance, is an American chain of department stores. Known for selling high quality clothing article from shoes to shirts. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Macy's Inc. signage is displayed at a department store in New York, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Macy's Inc., the largest U.S. department-store company, is scheduled to report fourth-quarter 2015 earnings before the opening of U.S. financial markets on February 23. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
J.C. Penney Co. signage is displayed outside of a store at the Gateway Shopping Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. J.C. Penney Co. is scheduled to release earnings figures on Aug. 14. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JUNE 09: Customers enter the Dillards department store at Parkdale Mall, in Beaumont, Texas, Wednesday morning, June 9, 2004. A judge declared a mistrial in a lawsuit brought against Dillard's Inc. by 17 black shoppers in Texas who claimed that security guards at the department store chain harassed them because of their race. (Photo by Scott Eslinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 19: A Nordstrom sign is seen outside a store on April 19, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Nordstrom on Monday said in a cost-cutting measure they are expecting to lay off 350 to 400 people. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The sign outside the Kmart store is seen in Broomfield, Colorado November 19, 2009. Sears Holdings Corp posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss November 19, 2009, helped by the first increase in same-store sales at its Kmart unit in four years. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES BUSINESS)
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