SpendingPulse: Overall sales momentum continues, but category strength shifts

Purchase, N.Y. -- October’s unusual weather patterns — an unseasonably warm first half of the month and a snow storm on the last Saturday of the month — may have pushed some spending into November, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and service sales across all payment forms including cash and check.

While retail spending overall grew at a pace consistent with that of the last several months, the relative strengths of the various sectors changed and growth in some categories was offset by deceleration in others. While apparel was up in the mid single-digits in October over the same month in 2010, its growth rate slowed considerably since September.

The slow-down in growth was seen across all apparel’s sub-sectors, with men’s and family Apparel showing October growth rates at less than half of September’s levels.

“Sales began to pick up momentum in October 2010, which is creating a more difficult comparison environment in October 2011,” said Michael McNamara, VP of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “Further, the unusual snow storm that hit the Northeast on the last Saturday of the month may well have kept shopper traffic down similar to the pattern we saw when Hurricane Irene hit on the last Saturday of August.”

The slower growth in apparel was somewhat offset by stronger results in electronics and appliances. McNamara pointed out that electronics and appliances’ gain in October 2011 against October 2010 results were the first positive results for the category since March of this year, and the highest growth since September 2010.

The most significant shopping event in October is Halloween, and the Halloween-related sectors, including drug stores, gift and novelty Stores and grocery, performed relatively well with growth of 5.1% compared with October 2010. Year-over-year food price increase contributed to the gain, however all Halloween related sectors had positive gains versus 2010.