Strong Kickoff to Holiday Shopping Season

By: By Parija Kavilanz, CNN senior writer
By: By Parija Kavilanz, CNN senior writer
Retail sales were solidly higher in November, the government reported Thursday, fueled in part by deep discounting on holiday merchandise.

The Associated Press
With nary room to move, shoppers cram the aisles at Toys R Us in Santa Rosa, Calif., at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, getting a jump on retailers much-anticipated Black Friday.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retail sales were solidly higher in November, the government reported Thursday, fueled in part by deep discounting on holiday merchandise.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.8% last month.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com on average had forecast an increase of 0.5% for November.

Sales excluding autos and auto parts rose 1.2%. Economists had forecast a rise of 0.6% in the measure for November, according to Briefing.com.

November's gain marked the fifth straight monthly gain in the measure, an encouraging sign that, despite a tight job market, consumers are becoming more comfortable with spending on discretionary purchases.

For retailers, November also marks the start of the year-end holiday shopping frenzy. Combined sales in November and December can account for as much as 50% of merchants' sales and profits for the full year.

Holiday sales this year got off to a robust start. Earlier this month, many large store chains also reported much better-than-expected monthly sales at their stores.

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