People carry shopping bags along Broadway in New York City.
Photograph by Spencer Platt — Getty Images
By John Kell
December 11, 2014

The Commerce Department reported a better-than-expected 0.7% increase in retail sales in November from the previous month, as most pockets of the sector reported strengthening sales.

The increase was better than the 0.4% jump that Wall Street economists had projected, and signaled that retail sales have accelerated from the more muted results that have been reported the past few months. The sales growth was the strongest that the Commerce Department reported since March of this year. Here is a look at some of the winners and losers of the retail sector.

The winners: Nearly every segment could fall into this category because growth was so broad, but there were a few standouts. Retail sales jumped 1.7% for the motor vehicle and parts dealers segment, and sales also increased 1.4% for the building material and garden equipment businesses. Health and personal care stores, as well as department stores, also notched sales growth that exceeded the retail segment’s overall growth.

Sales were also higher for furniture and home furnishings, food and beverage stores and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, though the sales growth for those pockets were all under the 0.7% increase that was reported broadly.

The losers: The main notable loser would be gasoline stations, which posted a 0.8% sales drop on a sequential basis and an even steeper 2.1% decline from a year ago. Gasoline stations sales have been a drag on the retail sector throughout the year, with sales falling 1.6% for the first 11 months of 2014, far worse than the overall increase of 4%. Gas prices have been tumbling, so that’s hurting sales at the pump, and the pain looks poised to continue into 2015. The Energy Department this week cut its prediction for next year’s average price of gasoline across the U.S. It would be the lowest full-year average since 2009.

Another loser would be “miscellaneous store retailers,” one of the smaller segments that the Commerce Department breaks out, with sales dropping 1.7% in November.

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