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WASHINGTON -- Although the month of September was hit by two hurricanes and drastic gas price hikes, retail sales continued to rise, the National Retail Federation (NRF) here said on Friday. Unadjusted retail sales for September (excluding automobile, gas station, and restaurant volume) rose a vigorous 7.0 percent over last year, and increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from August.
Robust growth was seen in nearly every retail category last month, including a 6.1 percent year-over-year gain in sales at food and beverage stores.
The increases, which prompted a third quarter sales gain of 6.4 percent over the same period in 2004, were stronger than the trade group, as well as industry analysts, had been expecting. "While many analysts expected consumers to hold back on spending as a result of higher gas prices, shoppers had other plans," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "This is a good sign for retailers as they head into the holiday season."
September retail sales released on Friday by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations, and restaurants) rose 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from August and increased 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 36.2 percent unadjusted from last September.
NRF said it expects retail industry sales to increase 5.6 percent this year over 2004. Holiday sales, which are defined as retail industry sales in the full months of November and December, are expected to rise 5.0 percent to $435.3 billion.