Sales at US apparel retailers rose again in the early part of November, gathering speed from October's gains and adding more hope for retailers as they head into the holiday season.

Total apparel sales were up 9.7% for the first half of the month, compared with the same period last year according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks US retail and service sales.

This beats October's rise of 8.2%, and builds on the seven out of ten months' year-on-year gains for the sector in 2010 - although the report notes that year-on-year comparisons are easier in early November compared to December.

"We are now beginning to see sharper increases in key holiday categories, indicating a solid start to the holiday season," notes Michael McNamara, vice president, research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

"For now at least, we are seeing some decent growth numbers and while levels are not yet back to 2007, the year-over-year growth stats are helping to get the holiday season off to an encouraging start."