Retail sales increase in May; April sales revised higher


Shoppers ramped up their spending in May. And April sales were better than previously indicated.

Retail sales rose 0.5% in May over the previous month  and increased 3.2% year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF numbers, which exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.    

In addition, retail sales for April were adjusted to show a gain of 0.3%, reversing the previously stated loss of 0.2%.

“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,” said NRF chief economic Jack Kleinhenz. “The strong job market, recent income gains and elevated confidence translates into ongoing support for spending.

In light of ongoing trade war concerns,  Kleinhenz added a cautionary note.

“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,” he said.

May’s retail sales increases were broad based, with nearly all categories showing gains over the previous month. The only decline was in food and beverage stores.

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.

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.

A separate report on Friday showed manufacturing production rising moderately in May, leaving output down this year. Production at factories rose 0.2% last month after slumping 0.5% in April.
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