Retail Sales Rise Unexpectedly in September

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Following a surprise rebound in August, retail sales increased again in September as consumers spent on clothing, electronics and general merchandise.

Retail sales in September were up 0.7% seasonally adjusted from August and up 13.9% year-over-year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.The Dow Jones estimate was for a decline of 0.2%, according to CBNC.

September’s surprise hike follows increases of 0.9% month-over-month and 15.4% year-over-year in August. The July 2021 to August 2021 % change was revised from up 0.7% to up 0.9%.

“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. [See also: White House: Walmart, Target, Home Depot to Work Off-Peak to Ease Supply Chain Holdup Ahead of Holidays
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.”

Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to Census data. For the first nine months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 14.5% 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 % over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.

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.

    September 2021 sales specifics from key retail sectors, according to NRF
    • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 1.1 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 22.5 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Electronics and appliance stores were down 0.9 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 17.3 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • General merchandise stores were up 2 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 14.1 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.2 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13.7 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Sporting goods stores were up 3.7 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Online and other non-store sales were up 0.6 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 10.5 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.7 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.4 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Health and personal care stores were down 1.4 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 6.9 % unadjusted year-over-year.
    • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.1 % month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 6.2 % unadjusted year-over-year.