NRF: Retail Sales Edge Up In August

Retail sales continued to recover from the coronavirus pandemic in August, showing a gradual improvement from July and larger gains year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said.

The U.S. Census Bureau said today that overall retail sales during August were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from July and up 2.6% year-over-year. That follows a 0.9% month-over-month increase in July. NRF’s calculation of retail sales, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, showed August was up 0.1% seasonally adjusted from July and up 5.6% unadjusted year-over-year.

“While August retail sales numbers were a bit mixed, we believe the consumer is resilient and is in good shape as we head into the holiday season,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Over the past several months, consumers have responded well to federal relief measures that have supported the recovery, so it comes as no surprise that they would take a pause on spending as some of these programs tapered off at the end of July. We continue to advocate for additional stimulus measures to help the economy recover. With the holidays quickly approaching, our retailers are prepared to serve customers to meet all of their holiday needs and are embracing the new holiday tradition of shopping early.”

“August was topsy-turvy as COVID-19 brought a lot of shifts and uncertainty regarding back-to-school spending and other issues but consumer spending remains intact even if sales grew less than July,” said NRF chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz. “Retail spending habits have remained largely consistent and stable these past few months since stores began to reopen. Some consumers likely reduced their spending with the end of the $600 supplemental unemployment benefits for those out of work, but a building-up of savings from that and other government cash helped support spending. At this juncture, it is difficult to sort out how much economic activity is due to government support and how much is evidence of hardcore demand due to recent job gains. August numbers might have been higher if not for small businesses struggling with reopening and the return to full operations.”