As skittish consumers continue to reign in spending, retail sales dropped by a record 2.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
October sales totaled to a seasonally adjusted $363.7 billion, the largest monthly decline on record, the report said. Last month's decline surpassed the previous low posted in November 2001, when sales plunged 2.65 percent following the Sept.11 terrorist attacks.
"Consumers went into hibernation in October while concerns about the economy were at a peak," Rosalind Wells, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. "As economic uncertainty went from bad to worse, shoppers pulled back on everything but the basics to weather the storm," Wells said.
Much of the decline was driven by collapsing auto sales following tighter auto-loan terms in mid-September, which pushed car sales down by 25.9 percent from the same period a year ago, the Washington-based trade group reported.
Sales were weak across most retail categories, with furniture stores, electronics stores, and clothing stores reporting declines.