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Sales Rise in September

Washington, D.C., Though the month of September was burdened with the impact of two hurricanes and much higher gas prices, retail sales continued to rise. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for September (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose a vigorous 7.0% unadjusted over last year and increased 0.8% seasonally adjusted from August. The gains, which led third-quarter sales to rise 6.4% over 2004, were stronger than NRF 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 today 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% seasonally adjusted from August and increased 7.1% unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 36.2% unadjusted from last September.

Robust growth was seen in nearly every retail category last month, including furniture and home furnishings stores, which rose 1.2% adjusted from August and climbed an impressive 9.3% unadjusted over last year. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers also saw a surge, with sales rising 1.0% from August and 9.3% adjusted over last year. Additionally, strong year-over-year gains were seen at electronics and appliances stores (6.3%), food and beverage stores (6.1%), health and personal-care stores (7.6%), and clothing and clothing accessories stores (5.8%).

NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.6% 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% to $435.3 billion.

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