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Retail Industry Updates

Retail Sales Have Now Grown for 6 Months Straight

Retail sales were up 10.6% in October compared to the same month in 2019. (iStock/Marcos Calvo)

Retail sales inched up slightly in October, growing 0.3% from September, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Retail sales grew for the sixth month in a row in October after growing 1.6% month over month in September. October gains were led by online sales, which were up both month over month and year over year thanks largely to the shift of Amazon Prime Day to October as well as other retailers’ promotions.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said retail sales are “significantly better than the same time a year ago” as the economy continued to recover and consumers began their holiday shopping early.

“We are encouraged by another positive retail sales number for October as early holiday shopping provided a strong boost to the data,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Overall, retail sales were up 10.6% in October 2020 versus October 2019, and for the first 10 months of this year retail sales were up 6.4% versus the first 10 months of 2019.”

Shay added that consumers have proven their resilience and willingness to spend “as we head into the heart of the holiday season.”

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said October retail sales remained on track despite the pandemic continuing to affect households and businesses.

“The steady expansion of retail sales is good news against the background of these unusual economic circumstances and climbing virus cases in recent weeks,” he added. “Early holiday shopping appears to have supported October’s increase in sales.”

But Kleinhenz warned that the rise in COVID-19 cases continues to be a factor that weighs on consumer perceptions, sentiment and spending and “there could be retrenchment if we cannot thwart this latest wave.”

NRF’s calculation of retail sales — which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail — showed October was up 0.2% from September and up 10.6% year over year. That compared with increases of 0.9% month over month and 12.9% year over year in September.

October’s sales results come as NRF’s latest research shows 42% of consumers started their holiday shopping sooner than usual this year. Consumers surveyed for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics plan to spend an average $997.79, down $50 from 2019 as they focus on gifts rather than purchases for themselves.

Seven out of nine retail categories saw year-over-year increases. Specifics from key retail sectors during October include:

• Online and other non-store sales were up 3.1% month over month and up 26.3% year over year.

• Electronics and appliance stores were up 1.2% month over month but down 3.3% year over year.

• Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.9% month over month and up 17% year over year.

• Health and personal care stores were down 0.1% month over month but up 3.1% year over year.

• Grocery and beverage stores were down 0.2% month over month but up 11.6% year over year.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.4% month over month but up 5.8% year over year.

• General merchandise stores were down 1.1% month over month but up 4.8% year over year.

• Sporting goods stores were down 4.2% month over month but up 14.1% year over year.

• Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 4.2% month over month and down 11.3% year over year.