Retail Recovery Continues in June

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Shoppers purchased items such as clothing and electronics in June, boosting retail sales even higher than expected.

Retail sales in June were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from May and up 18% above June 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase beat economists’ expectations. Economists polled by FactSet for example had predicted a decline of 0.5%.

Total sales for April through June 2021 were up 31.5% from the same period a year ago. However, it's important to note data for May 2021 was revised to show sales dipping 1.7% instead of declining the 1.3% previously reported. This May dip and June increase showcases a seesaw of U.S. economic recovery.

[See also: Retail Sales See January Jump]

“We’re continuing to see an impressive recovery,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The economy and consumption are particularly sensitive to government policy, and the boost we saw from government support earlier in the year is continuing to show benefits. Reopening of both stores and the overall economy has progressed, and even higher prices seen in some retail categories reflecting the push-and-pull of supply chain challenges haven’t proven to be a deterrent to spending. As more people get vaccinated and get out, some of the growth will shift to services rather than retail but there’s enough momentum to support both.”

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed June was up 0.8% seasonally adjusted from May and up 12.1% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with a month-over-month decline of 1.9% and a year-over-year increase of 16.5% in May. NRF’s numbers were up 19.3% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average.

Sales saw a boost from Amazon Prime Day, which was also joined by many other major retailers. Record-high temperatures in some parts of the country and tropical storms in others may have affected sales, and methodology the Census Bureau uses to adjust results for seasonal variations may have affected the numbers reported by the agency, NRF said.

“Continued growth in June retail sales shows enduring strength in the American consumer,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Heading into the back-to-school season, we expect record sales as families purchase electronics, shoes and backpacks for in-person learning this year. However, as the drop in monthly auto sales indicates, retailers are facing product shortages and supply chain constraints.”

[Read more: 2021 Back-to-School Retail Predictions]

    June sales specifics from key retail sectors, according to NRF:
    • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 49.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Electronics and appliance stores were up 3.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 36.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 3.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 17.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Health and personal care stores were up 1.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Online and other non-store sales were up 1.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 12% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Sporting goods stores were down 1.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 11% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • General merchandise stores were up 1.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 10.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 1.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 7% unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 3.7% unadjusted year-over-year.