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May’s Retail Sales Show Consumer Resilience and Confidence

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Retail sales rose 0.5% in May seasonally adjusted from April and up 3.2% unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants.

“Today’s retail numbers, and upward revisions to prior months, reinforce the ongoing strength of the consumer and are consistent with a pick up in the pace of the economy in the coming months. The strong job market, recent income gains, and elevated confidence translates into ongoing support for spending. Households, in the aggregate, are in solid financial condition, but an escalation in trade tariffs will undoubtedly create a considerable downdraft to confidence and spending, or lead to a pullback in spending,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Revisions to April monthly data were significant with retail sales reversing a loss of 0.2% monthly change to a gain of 0.3%. Retail sales data has been unusually choppy given the economic environment in recent months that include the partial government shutdown, volatile energy prices, roller coaster equity markets, and escalating trade tensions. May’s retail sales increases were broad-based, with nearly all categories showing gains, with the only decline coming from food and beverage stores.

As of May, the three-month moving average was up 3.3% over the same period a year ago, compared with a gain of 2.9% in April. May’s results build on a revised gain of 0.3% month-over-month and a revised 5.9% gain year-over-year in April.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall May sales – including auto dealers, gas stations, and restaurants – were up 0.5% seasonally adjusted from April and were up 3.2% year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during May include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 11.4% year-over-year and up 1.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 4.4% year-over-year and up 0.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 3.8% year-over-year and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.3% year-over-year and down 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.2% year-over-year and up 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 1.4% year-over-year but up 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.9% year-over-year but up 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 2.4% year-over-year but up 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.4% year-over-year and unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

About NRF

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies, and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy.

Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring, and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.

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