Small Store Growth Rebounds in November

After a one-month hiatus, independents again do better than overall retail sales.

Small stores saw a pick-up in sales during November, allowing them to outperform overall retail volume growth for the month.

This story first appeared in the December 13, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The MasterCard SpendingPulse for Small Business survey, conducted in collaboration with Wells Fargo, indicated a 5.2 percent increase among smaller stores for the month, excluding automotive stores, a figure that rises to 5.8 percent when gas is excluded and to 7.3 percent with the further omission of food service establishments.

The 5.2 percent pick-up comes against a 4.2 percent rise in October and 5.6 percent growth in September. However, it is the second smallest increase of the year, surpassing only October’s leaner growth. The small-store increase peaked in February at 10.3 percent.

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“November sales were negatively impacted by weather events, especially in the Northeast,” said Michael McNamara, global solutions leader at MasterCard SpendingPulse. “However, across the country as a whole, smaller retailers showed a good rebound from the slowing growth in October.

“That said,” he continued, “November’s pick-up alone isn’t enough to stem the downward momentum in small business sales growth that we’ve been observing since February.”

McNamara told WWD that Hurricane Sandy hurt luxury’s performance for the month. “About 20 percent of all luxury spending is out of New York City, and the result for the month for all retail was slightly negative,” he said.

While the apparel business had a “pretty rough first couple of weeks” due to the storm and its aftermath, which included a snowstorm, women’s specialty stores finished the month with a 5.5 percent increase in the broader retail sector while independent jewelry stores, rebounding from softness earlier in the year, enjoyed a 7.6 percent sales increase for the month.

Apparel retailers — both independents and larger operations — did see good results on Black Friday, when they did better than overall retail performance, the MasterCard official noted.

The November results returned small stores to what had been, until October, a yearlong pattern of posting increases in excess of those for overall retail sales in the U.S. The 5.2 percent advance comes against a 4.5 percent rise in U.S. retail sales, again with the exclusion of automotive.

For purposes of the survey, “small” is defined as having less than $35 million in annual sales and a payroll of less than 200 people.