Shoppers have said they weren't aware of or didn't understand Nordstrom's notification about the new tracking technology. Reuters

The U.S. Commerce Department reports preliminary October national retail sales on Wednesday, and analysts expect to see the effects of Hurricane Sandy, with auto sales down as Northeastern buyers stayed away from showroom floors.

Store closures in the region before, during and after the so-called superstorm also affected other consumer purchases, albeit those sales might have been offset by a pre-storm rush that emptied store shelves of essentials, like food and water, and storm-protection items, such as plywood and tarps.

The weather event could drag overall monthly sales into negative territory for the first time in four months. Seventy-two economists polled by Thompson Reuters expect overall retail sales to reflect a 0.2 percent fall after a surprise 1.1 percent rise in September. The lowest estimate is 1.2 percent and the highest is 0.8 percent, which would still be a month-to-month decline.

Excluding autos, the consensus rises into positive territory, by 0.2 percent. Excluding autos and gasoline purchases, the consensus rises to as high as 0.9 percent.

Automakers Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) both said in their monthly October sales reports at the start of the month that they expected most of the sales lost due to the storm to be somewhat recovered in November as many consumers who were going to buy cars in the last three days of October will likely make those purchases once their lives return to normal.

The overall trend has most major retailers seeing a decent if not stellar holiday shopping season, possibly the best one since before the recession-affected 2008 season. Most of large retailers reported moderate to strong October same-store sales, led by Seattle’s luxury specialty retailer Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN), with its 9.8 percent rise in year-to-year October sales for stores open more than 12 months. Houston’s Stage Stores Inc. (NYSE: SSI), a small, regional department and off-price stores saw its sales last month rise 6.5 percent while retail giant Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) of Minneapolis, Minn., saw its sales up 2.4 percent last month.

Atlanta-based home improvement chain The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) will release its third-quarter earnings before markets open on Tuesday, when it’s expected to report earnings of 70 cents per share, up 17 percent from last year on a 3 percent rise in net revenue of $17.9 billion.

The company has met or topped estimates for the previous four quarters, and will likely see a monthly sales bump in late October and November that will not be reflected in the quarterly earnings report. The market will look to see if the company will raise or lower its guidance for the rest of the year, and whether the storm’s damage will play a role in that as homeowners go to the world’s largest home improvement chain for supplies.