NRF: Tax Cuts, Low Unemployment Help Drive May Retail Sales

Year-over-year retail sales were up 5.6% in May, according to the National Retail Federation, as sales in several key retail segments were in the black during the year’s fifth month.

“The economy is looking strong and households have a solid financial foundation on which to base their spending,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist, citing increased take-home pay thanks in part to tax cuts, strong employment levels and good availability of consumer credit as key drivers.

Despite the positive growth, Kleinhenz said factors including inflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture. In addition, new tariffs or a trade war could also have a negative impact on retail sales and may have a negative impact on consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence, he said.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said overall May sales— including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants— were up 0.8% seasonally adjusted from April and up 5.9% year-over-year.

Year-over-year sales at online and other non-store sales were up 9.1%, general merchandise stores up 5.6%, furniture and home furnishings stores were up 4.2%, electronics and appliance stores were up 2.8% and health and personal care stores were up 2.6%.