NEW YORK-- Black Friday was no match for Superstorm Sandy.
Major retailers, such as Kohl's, Target and Macy's, on Thursday reported weak sales in November as a strong start to the holiday shopping season over the Thanksgiving weekend wasn't enough to fully offset a slow start to the month caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Thestorm stunted enthusiasm among shoppers early in the month just asstores were preparing for the busiest shopping period of the year, aroughly two-month stretch in November through December when they canmake up to 40% of their annual revenue.
"It really took away thepunch bowl for retailers and put them behind the eight ball heading intothe crucial weekend," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, aresearch firm.
Eighteen retailers reported that November sales atstores open at least a year - a more reliable indicator of a retailer'shealth - through last Saturday were up 1.7% compared with the year-agoperiod, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.That's well below the anticipated forecast for a 4.5% to 5.5% gain.
Onlya small group of chain stores representing about 13% of the $2.4trillion U.S. retail industry report monthly revenue. The list excludesWal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer. But the data still offers asnapshot of consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of all economicactivity.
Thursday's reports show that stores were still reelingfrom the impact of Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Northeast on Oct. 29.Sandy disrupted business activity and households, with people losingpower and stores, including Macy's and Saks, closing Northeast storesfor several days.
Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks spendingacross all payments, including cash, said that Sandy knocked off nearly$4 billion of retail sales the first week in the hard-hit Mid-Atlanticand Northeast region, which accounts for 24% of retail sales nationwide.
The disappointing November sales releases dampened the enthusiasm fueled after reports of strong spending over the Thanksgiving weekend.A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over thefour-day weekend starting Thanksgiving, up 9.2% of last year, accordingto a survey of 4,000 shoppers that was conducted by research firmBIGinsight for The National Retail Federation trade group.
Americansspent more too: The average holiday shopper spent $423 over the entireweekend, up from $398. Total spending over the four-day weekend totaled$59.1 billion, up 12.8% from 2011.
November's results seem toaffirm that this holiday season could be a difficult one for stores. TheNational Retail Federation estimates that overall sales in November andDecember will rise 4.1% this year to $586.1 billion. That's more than apercentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years,and the smallest increase since 2009, when sales were nearly flat.
ForNovember, Target reported that revenue at stores opened at least a yearfell 1%, hurt by weak sales in the first two weeks of the month.Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a 2.1% rise. Targetsaid weak sales early in the month offset stronger sales later. TheSouth was its strongest region, while the Northeast, hard hit by Sandy,was weaker.
Macy's, a Cincinnati department store chain, also saidthe storm hurt sales for the month. Macy's said its revenue at storesopen at least a year fell 0.7%. Analysts had expected a 1.5% increase.Macy's decline was its first in three years.
"Despite thelargest-volume Thanksgiving weekend in our company's history, we werenot able to overcome the weak start to the month, which included thedisruption of Hurricane Sandy," said Terry J. Lundgren, Macy's chiefexecutive. "Yet we remain on track to deliver a very strong salesperformance in the fourth quarter, consistent with our guidance."