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National retail sales inch up in October

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WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales rose 0.8% in October from the previous month and were up 4.3% from a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported earlier this month.
September retail sales were revised higher to show a 1% increase instead of the previously reported 0.6% increase. The combined September and October sales gain was the largest two-month rise since early 2014.
Consumer spending was up across a range of categories in October, including automobiles, gasoline, groceries, health care products and construction ­materials.
Factors contributing to the sales increase include improvements in consumer confidence and a rise in discretionary income, as wages have picked up after years of stagnation and employers continue to hire, according to federal statistics. Low pump prices are a contributing factor.
Costco Wholesale Corp. reported net sales of $9.1 billion for the four weeks ended October 30, an increase of 4% from nearly $8.8 billion in the comparable period of 2015.
Comparable-store sales rose 2%, Costco reported, with North America accounting for a lion’s share of the gains. Same-store sales in the United States rose 2% in the four-week period, and were up 4% in Canada. Overall, international same-store sales were flat, Costco reported. The company has 717 warehouses, including 503 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 91 in Canada, 36 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 25 in Japan, 12 in South Korea, 12 in Taiwan, eight in Australia and two in Spain.
Fred’s Inc. reported sales fell 4.2% to $157.3 million in the four weeks to October 29. Comparable-store sales were down 3.4%, compared to a 2.3% increase a year earlier.
Chief executive officer Mike Bloom attributed the sales shortfall at Fred’s to four factors: “unexpected challenges” in the transition to a third-party distributor for several front-end categories; the calendar shift that pushed Halloween into the fiscal month of November; a significant reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) payments; and unseasonably warm weather.


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