NEW YORK — Black Friday was no match for Sandy.
Major retailers such as Kohl's, Target and Macy's on Thursday reported weak sales in November as a strong start to the holiday shopping season on the day after Thanksgiving wasn't enough to fully offset a slow start to the month caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The storm stunted enthusiasm among shoppers early in the month just as stores were preparing for the busiest shopping period of the year, a roughly two-month stretch in November through December when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.
"It really took away the punchbowl for retailers and put them behind the eight ball heading into the crucial weekend," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, a research firm
Eighteen retailers reported that November sales at stores open at least a year — an indicator of a retailer's health — through last Saturday were up 1.7 percent compared with the year-ago period, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's well below the group's anticipated forecast for a 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent gain.
Only a small group of stores representing about 13 percent of the $2.4 trillion U.S. retail industry report monthly revenue, and the list excludes big merchants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer. But the data still offers a snapshot of consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of all economic activity.
November sales show that stores were challenged by the impact of Sandy, which hit the Northeast on Oct. 29 and disrupted business activity and households for several days. MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all payments, including cash, said that Sandy knocked off nearly $4 billion of retail sales the first week in November in the hard-hit Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region, which accounts for 24 percent of retail sales nationwide.
The disappointing November sales releases dampen the enthusiasm fueled after reports of strong spending over the Thanksgiving weekend, the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season.