Stores face buying season but consumers wary

Shopping mall parking lots are packed and consumers are spending, but they’re spending very carefully.

And what they’re buying in this all-important retail seasons is probably on sale.

The government said Tuesday that retail sales rose just 0.2 percent in November — the slowest pace in five months — despite a deal-induced buying bulge on Black Friday, Nov. 25.

The good news for consumers is that price competition is fierce.

So “people just waited for the sales,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities in New York.

Price cutting meant that November sales growth didn’t live up to loftier expectations.

Retail analysts had forecast a 0.6 percent increase for the month, largely because October sales gains had been comparatively strong.

The bottom line is that “consumers will buy what is cheap but do not have deep pockets for the impulse sales that drive the holiday,” Ricchiuto said.

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