US 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 (NRF) said.
“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 labour 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.”
“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.”
The US Census Bureau said overall retail sales in September were up 0.7% seasonally adjusted from August and up 13.9% year-over-year. That compares with increases of 0.9% month-over-month and 15.4% 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% seasonally adjusted from August and that September was up 11% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with increases of 2.4% month-over-month and 12.2% year-over-year increase in August. NRF’s numbers were up 10.7% 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% 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.