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November Retail Sales Top Expectations, No Thanks to Black Friday (Update 1)

This story has been updated with industry commentary.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Retailers were hoping that Black Friday weekend promotions would boost sales in November as companies aggressively fought for customers. According to the latest Commerce Department numbers, U.S. retail and food services sales for November rose 0.7% to $432.3 billion, above analysts' expectations, but the gains were from consumers buying bigger ticket items as opposed to apparel.

Analysts, according to Thomson Reuters, were expecting sales to rise 0.6% in last month. The latest retail sales numbers were 4.7% above November 2012 numbers, according to the Commerce Department.

But apparel wasn't one of the top performing categories last month when comparing sequential gains. Consumers were buying bigger ticket items in November.

Sales at auto and other motor vehicle dealers rose 1.8% from the prior month and 10.9% from November of 2012. Sales at online (non-store) retailers rose 2.2% and 9.4%, respectively.

Additionally, furniture and home furnishing stores rose 1.8% from October sales (up 9.7% from last year), while electronics stores saw a 1.2% rise last month and a 6.3% gain from November 2012.

"The pattern of buying continues to reflect fallout from home buying earlier in the year," Steve Blitz, chief economist for ITG Investment Research, says in written commentary. "During the summer months home purchases boosted spending at building materials stores which has since slowed. ... With flagstones now in place and rose trellises raised, attention moved indoors."

"The growth in spending at these stores is no real surprise," Blitz adds. "Our expectation is that growth in spending in these categories will soon begin to slow for the same reason as building and garden material sales slowed, growth in home buying has flattened."

Clothing and clothing accessories sales actually fell 0.2% from October, but gained 4.1% in year-over-year comparisons.

"We also follow apparel sales very closely and have noted the softness in soft-line retail, based on the transaction panel and the discounting behavior of soft-line retailers," Blitz says. "Where spending has continued to drive higher is at online stores."

Retail sales excluding gas, building materials and autos, rose 0.5% last month, above the expected 0.3% gains, according to Thomson Reuters.

October retail sales were revised upward to 0.6% from 0.4% as previously disclosed.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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