Retail Sales Grow as Consumers Focus on Goods Over Services and Leisure

Our MoodyOnTheMarket.com monthly analysis of retail sales nationally is provided by the National Retail Federation, which advocates for retailers in Washington and across the nation.

Here is their latest review, as of October 15:

Retail sales increased again in September as worries about the COVID-19 delta variant pushed consumer spending toward merchandise rather than services like dining, entertainment or travel, despite supply chain disruptions and inflation, the National Retail Federation said today.

September sales were up in all but two categories on a monthly basis and up across the board year-over-year, led by increases at clothing, electronics and general merchandise stores. Specifics from key sectors include:

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  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 22.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 0.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 17.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 14.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were up 3.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were up 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 10.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 1.4 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 6.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 6.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

What does it all mean?   National Retail Federation leaders analyzed it:

“Today’s retail sales data confirms the sheer power of the consumer to spend, and we expect this to continue,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Despite persistent challenges related to the global pandemic, supply chain and labor shortages, retailers and their partners have shown resilience and ingenuity in getting the workforce, goods and systems in place to serve their customers and the communities where they operate. We welcomed the chance to collaborate with the Biden administration and industry partners this week to address supply chain and labor force issues. We have seen record imports this year and are confident that collectively we can work through these challenges to ensure a healthy and happy holiday season.”

“The reopening of the economy was interrupted by COVID-19 and consumer spending other than retail hit a speed bump toward the end of summer,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Consumers remained active, but retail sales didn’t reflect as much of a shift away from goods to services as expected. That was a plus for retail because consumers still have a hyper-ability to spend thanks to wage and job gains and the household savings built up during the pandemic. In addition, some back-to-school spending may have spilled over from August into September because of school districts that delayed opening until after Labor Day. Overall, the September report is very promising for a strong finish for the year. Nonetheless, rising inflation and slower supply chains remain a concern. Spending might have been higher if not for shortages of items consumers are eager to purchase.”

The U.S. Census Bureau today said overall retail sales in September were up 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from August and up 13.9 percent year-over-year. That compares with increases of 0.9 percent month-over-month and 15.4 percent year-over-year in August. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to Census data.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – also showed September was up 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from August and that September was up 11 percent unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with increases of 2.4 percent month-over-month and 12.2 percent year-over-year increase in August. NRF’s numbers were up 10.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average.

For the first nine months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 14.5 percent over the same period in 2020. That is consistent with NRF’s revised forecast that 2021 retail sales should grow between 10.5 and 13.5 percent over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.