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November retail sales gain solid 3.1%

December 1, 2011 |  8:50 am

Attracted by deep discounts and promotions, shoppers headed to the malls in November and handed the nation's retailers a solid start to the crucial holiday season.

Major retail chain stores posted a 3.1% gain in November over a year ago, according to a preliminary Thomson Reuters' tally of 20 large retailers released Thursday morning. The results were in line with Wall Street expectations and bolstered by record numbers of people out buying during the Black Friday weekend.

Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Buoyed by a comeback of wealthy shoppers, luxury retailer Saks Inc. reported a 9.3% increase while Nordstrom saw a 5.6% bump. Costco Wholesale Corp. said sales rose 9%. Limited Brands, parent company of Limited and Victoria's Secret stores, had a 7% increase.

Graphic: Monthly sales results by chain

Several department stores did not fare well. Despite opening at midnight on Thanksgiving for the first time ever, Kohl's reported a 6.2% drop. J.C. Penney said sales fell 2%.

Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.

Analysts say that earlier-than-ever openings on Black Friday weekend and heavy promotions lured shoppers into the malls last month, but some question whether that momentum can be sustained through the end of the year.

Retail experts say a good holiday season could speed up the nation's tepid recovery because consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. economic activity.


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-- Shan Li

Photo: Holiday shoppers beat the crowds while shopping on a Wednesday afternoon at Santa Monica Place. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times