NRF: September Marks Fourth Month Of Retail Sales Gains

A strong rebound in apparel led a continuing recovery from the pandemic as retail sales accelerated their rate of growth in September and marked the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains, the National Retail Federation said.

“Retail sales showed impressive gains in September,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “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.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales in September were up 1.9% seasonally adjusted from August and up 5.4% year-over-year. 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 in order to focus on core retail, showed September was up 1.3% seasonally adjusted from August and up 12% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retail sales are continuing to build on the momentum we’ve seen through the summer and have been boosted by an improving labor market, a rebound in consumer confidence and elevated savings,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “A significant number of people remain unemployed, but 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.”

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. 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.