NRF: October Retail Sales Resilient

The National Retail Federation reported that retail sales gained for the sixth month in a row during October, with sales higher than the same time last year as the U.S. economy continued to recover and consumers began their holiday shopping early.

NRF cited a U.S. Census Bureau monthly study in concluding that October core retail sales, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, grew by 0.2% seasonally adjusted from September and 10.6% unadjusted from the month a year ago.

Online contributions led October sales advances, which got a boost from the shift of Amazon Prime Day to October from July and from related promotions. Online and other non-store sales were up 3.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted in October and 26.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

As defined by the Census Bureau, seven out of nine retail categories saw year-over-year increases. Month over month results were softer. October results for the key channels studied were:

  • General merchandise store sales slipped 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but grew 4.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings store sales slipped 0.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but grew 5.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply store sales increased 0.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and 17% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance store sales increased 1.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but slipped 3.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care store sales decreased 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but grew 3.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage store sales slipped 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but grew 11.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods store sales slipped 4.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but grew 14.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory store sales slipped 4.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and 11.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

“We are encouraged by another positive retail sales number for October, the sixth consecutive positive monthly gain, as early holiday shopping provided a strong boost to the data,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Overall, retail sales were up 10.6% in October 2020 versus October 2019, and for the first 10 months of this year, retail sales were up 6.4% versus the first 10 months of 2019. Consumers have proven their resilience and willingness to spend as we head into the heart of the holiday season and retailers continue to demonstrate their commitment and ability to ensure safe shopping environments for their customers and their associates, with deep discounts, robust inventory and great experiences whether in-store or online.”

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added, “October retail sales remained on track despite the pandemic continuing to affect households and businesses. The steady expansion of retail sales is good news against the background of these unusual economic circumstances and climbing virus cases in recent weeks. Early holiday shopping appears to have supported October’s increase in sales. The rise in COVID-19 cases continues to be a factor that weighs on consumer perceptions, sentiment and spending and there could be retrenchment if we cannot thwart this latest wave. Nonetheless, retailers are well prepared to safely fulfill holiday shopping lists, and the October results suggest so far, so good.”