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Retail sales up in September with impressive year-over-year gains

Retail spending continued to grow in September led by a strong rebound in apparel.

Retail sales in September rose 1.3% from August and were up 12% year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. The year-over-year gain was more than double the 5.7% year-over-year increase in August, which was unchanged from July. (NRF’s calculation of retail sales excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.) 

September marked the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains, the NRF said. Compared with March – the month the pandemic set in – September sales were up 5.6%. 

Three-quarters of retail categories saw both month-over-month and year-over-year increases. The biggest monthly gain came at clothing stores, although their sales remained below last year, while the largest year-over-year increase was seen online. Electronics and appliance stores were the only major segment to post a decline. (See end of article for breakdown of sales by retail categories.)

“Retail sales are continuing to build on the momentum we’ve seen through the summer and have been boosted by an improving labor market, a rebound in consumer confidence and elevated savings,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “September retail sales reflect the support of government measures and elevated savings that is being spent now that consumers are shopping again.”

Kleinhenz noted that some of that money traditionally spent on such items as travel and entertainment has shifted to retail cash registers. 

Specifics from key retail sectors during September include:
•    Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 11 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 12 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Sporting goods stores were up 5.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 18.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    General merchandise stores were up 1.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Department stores, a subset of the category, were up 9.7 percent month-over-month.
•    Health and personal care stores were up 1.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 23.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Online and other non-store sales were up 0.5 month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 27 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Grocery and beverage stores were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 11.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
•    Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 6.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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