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Black Friday, Politics and Halloween Roiled Retail Sales in November

U.S. store foot traffic and sales both dropped in November, a month that included Halloween by the way the calendar fell, the presidential election and Black Friday. However, the month ended on a positive note as Thanksgiving week resulted in busier stores and ringing cash registers.

According to analytics firm Retail Next, November store traffic fell 10.2%, continuing a more than two-year-long trend in the measure. Brick-and-mortar sales fell 8.1%, which was actually an improvement over the average decline of the past six months.

Shopper yield, or the average sales per shopper, grew by 2.6%, its biggest increase in almost a year, as more retailers get better at figuring out how to convert visits to spending.

Store traffic was down by more than 12 percent in each of the first two weeks of the month, which included the election on Nov. 8, but steadily improved in the back half, with Thanksgiving weekend traffic down by only 4.1% compared to the same period last year.

By region, November store traffic increased 13.3% in the West, but dropped by more than 11 percent in the Northeast, Midwest and South. Not surprisingly, the busiest days for stores was Black Friday, Nov. 25, and the least busy day was Halloween.

Despite the slight improvement in traffic and sales over Thanksgiving weekend, the sales per shopper metric was virtually flat, supporting the theory held by many industry pundits that many go out on Black Friday weekend for the experience rather than to actually buy.