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NRF: Increased demand for building supplies spurs retail sales in September

Hurricane recovery spending contributed to an increase in U.S. retail sales for the month of September.

Retail sales increased 0.5% over August on a seasonally adjusted basis, and were up 3.2% year-over-year (YOY) on an unadjusted basis, according to the National Retail Federation.

This was lower than advanced estimates from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The department reported that U.S. retail and food services sales for September 2017 were $483.9 billion. This is an increase of 1.6% compared to August, and 4.4% higher than September 2016.

Both the Commerce Department and NRF reported that total sales for July through September 2017 period were up 3.9% from the same period a year ago.

September sales were also up 3.6% on a three-month moving average compared with the same period a year ago, NRF reported. (This excludes automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

As shoppers transitioned into recovery mode following a devastating hurricane season, building materials and supplies stores showed the strongest increase. The category was up 2.1% over August seasonally adjusted, according to NRF.

Online and other non-store sales were up 0.5% seasonally adjusted from August.

Sales gains were also seen in clothing and accessories stores, which were up 0.4% compared to last month. General merchandise stores were up 0.3% since August.

Electronics appliance stores led declines, down 1.1% compared to August. And furniture and home furnishings stores, as well as health and personal care stores, were both down 0.4% respectively, from August.

Sporting goods stores were down 0.2% compared to last month.

“Retail appears to have navigated through some rough weather – literally,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“Hurricane impacts were very clear, with a strong boost for building materials going a long way to offset downturns elsewhere,” he said. “Results were mixed among several business lines, but the bottom line was a good increase over August and strong growth from a year ago. While the hurricanes played a major role in the data, they did not fundamentally affect the upward path of the economy.”

September’s numbers are contributing to a long-term pattern of increased sales. Total retail sales have grown YOY every month since November 2009. Further, retail sales – excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants— have increased YOY in all but one month since the beginning of 2010, according to NRF.

For expert analysis of the retail industry's performance in September, click here.
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