October Sales Deliver Momentum As Fourth Quarter Opens

A seasonal weather shift helped boost October retail sales, providing some hope that the fourth quarter could enjoy improved consumer demand.

Cooler weather helped building material and garden equipment dealers enjoy a 1.9% seasonally adjusted sales advance from September and 7.3% gain unadjusted over October of last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales increased 1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 5.9% unadjusted versus last year’s period. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 0.7% seasonally adjusted over September and 1.4% unadjusted year-over-year.

Lagging were furniture and home furnishings stores, down 0.7% in October seasonally adjusted from September but up 0.6% unadjusted year-over-year. Also trailing were health and personal care store sales, which slipped 0.1% seasonally adjusted from the month earlier but increased unadjusted 1.6% compared with October of last year.

The October results represented the fourth straight month of retail sales gains, according to the National Retail Federation. Retail industry sales in the month, excluding those from automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, gained 0.3% seasonally adjusted over September and 2.6% unadjusted over October 2009. Total retail sales, as released yesterday by the United States Commerce Department, increased by 1.2% seasonally adjusted over September and 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year. Total sales include auto, gas station and restaurant contributions.

“While spending throughout the industry was varied, it appears the fourth quarter has gotten off to a solid start,” noted NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “October’s results are a clear indicator that the economy and consumer spending continue to show marked improvement, even though we expect consumers to proceed with caution.”