U.S. Retail Sales Jump 1.9% in September
U.S. retail sales in September increased 1.9 percent month-over-month and 5.4 percent year-over-year, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday. That's more than double what was economists forecasted, more than triple the 0.6 percent month-over-month increase in August, and almost double the 2.8 percent year-over-year increase in August. Sales have been up both month-over-month and year-over-year each month since June, following record monthly drops this spring. Sales at clothing stores rose 11 percent, accounting for much of September’s overall growth. Even sales at department stores, which have been falling out of fashion with shoppers for years, rose 9.7 percent last month.
The National Retail Federation's (NRF) calculation of retail sales — which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants in order to focus on core retail — showed that September was up 1.3 percent seasonally adjusted from August and 12 percent unadjusted year-over-year. The year-over-year gain was more than double the 5.7 percent year-over-year increase in August, which was unchanged from July. The NRF’s numbers were up 9.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average.
“Retail sales showed impressive gains in September,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Consumers continue to prove their resilience and strength through this pandemic. Retailers and consumers are adapting to the current environment, embracing shopping in different ways and focusing on specific categories.”
Total Retail's Take: This may be the October surprise we've all been waiting for. While retail sales have been recovering steadily since plunging in the spring as stores and malls were ordered closed in the wake of the coronavirus, it was quite surprising to see September's numbers easily surpass what even the most optimistic economists had been expecting. Why the good news? According to the NRF, retail sales have been boosted by an improving labor market and a rebound in consumer confidence. In fact, even though a large number of people remain unemployed, "more are going back to work and that makes them confident about spending. September retail sales reflect the support of government measures and elevated savings that is being spent now that consumers are shopping again. With less spending on personal services such as travel and entertainment outside the home, some of that money is shifting to retail cash registers. All in all, these numbers and other economic data show the nation’s economy remains on its recovery path," according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.