A strong rebound in apparel led a continuing V-shaped recovery from the pandemic as U.S. retail sales accelerated its rate of growth in September and marked the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains, according to the National Retail Federation.
“Retail sales showed impressive gains in September,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says. “Consumers continue to prove their resilience and strength through this pandemic. Retailers and consumers are adapting to the current environment. We’re optimistic about the prospects for a strong holiday season. While it’s been a challenging year, there’s been an enormous amount of innovation within the retail industry.”
Building on the momentum seen through the summer, retail sales are boosted by an improving labor market, a rebound in consumer confidence, and elevated savings, notes NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
“A significant number of people remain unemployed, but more are going back to work and that makes them confident about spending,” he says. “September retail sales reflect the support of government measures and elevated savings 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.”
Overall retail sales in September were up 1.9% seasonally adjusted from August and up 5.4% year-over-year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was more than triple the 0.6% month-over-month increase and almost double the 2.8% 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.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed September was up 1.3% seasonally adjusted from August and up 12% unadjusted year-over-year. The year-over-year gain was more than double the 5.7% year-over-year increase in August, which was unchanged from July. NRF’s numbers were up 9.2% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average. Compared with March – the month the pandemic set in – September sales were up 5.6%.
Three-quarters of retail categories saw both month-over-month and year-over-year increases. The biggest monthly gain came at clothing stores, although their sales remained below last year, while the largest year-over-year increase was seen online. Electronics and appliance stores were the only major segment to post a decline.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 11% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 12% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Sporting goods stores were up 5.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 18.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
- General merchandise stores were up 1.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 4.1% unadjusted year-over-year. Department stores, a subset of the category, were up 9.7% month-over-month.
- Health and personal care stores were up 1.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 23.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Online and other non-store sales were up 0.5 month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 27% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Grocery and beverage stores were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 11.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 6.1% unadjusted year-over-year.