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Despite an economy that has many Americans on pins and needles, consumers were spending in September. According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales increased 0.4 percent from August and a better-than-expected 5.7 percent over last September, as shoppers continued to show strength during a weak economic recovery.
September retail sales released in October by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.1 percent month-to-month and 8.6 percent over last year, partially due to strong auto sales.
“The American consumer and the retail industry continue to lead this recovery, and strong September retail sales are just what the economy needs right now,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “The unexpectedly strong sales increase in September may work to dampen fears of a double-dip recession and could indicate an economic and employment rebound.”
According to NRF, much of September’s strength came as a result of retail sales increases due to Hurricane Irene and an influx of shoppers who chose to complete back-to-school shopping later this year. Building materials stores rose 6.4 percent over last year, sporting goods stores were up 7.2 percent and clothing store sales increased 8.3 percent. August retail sales were revised upward to 0.4 from July, which was originally reported as 0.1 percent.
“Despite stagnant unemployment figures and a shaky stock market, American consumers are holding their own,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “While September’s sales figures were strong, retailers’ fourth quarter growth will continue to depend heavily on the labor market and consumer confidence, both of which continue to experience weakness.”
Earlier this month, NRF forecast holiday sales to rise 2.8 percent this year to $466 billion. NRF defines holiday sales as retail industry sales in the months of November and December.
Additional highlights of September sales include:
- September sales were strong across the board. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 1.3 percent seasonally adjusted month to month and 8.3 percent unadjusted year over year.
- Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and 0.7 percent unadjusted year over year.
- Health and personal care stores also performed well. Sales at these stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over August and 4.8 percent unadjusted year over year.
- Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 4.3 percent unadjusted over last year.
- Building materials and garden equipment stores sales decreased 0.1 percent from August but increased 6.3 percent unadjusted year over year.
NRF’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad.