Retail sales rebound in October

A strong labor market that is boosting consumer spending helped retail sales make a comeback in October, sending a positive note to retailers as they head into the holiday shopping season.

Retail sales in October increased 0.4% over September on a seasonally adjusted basis and were up 5.6% year-over-year unadjusted, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

According to NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, the pickup in October is a sign of ongoing consumer strength consistent with the state of the U.S. economy.

“The figures bolster expectations for the major shopping period of the year, the holidays,” he said. “Thanks to a high level of consumer confidence surrounding the current and future economy, we expect spending to maintain its strong momentum. The pickup in October was also due in part to delayed spending associated with the hurricanes in early fall.”

Sales were up 4.3% on a three-month moving average compared with the same period a year ago.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said overall October sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.8% seasonally adjusted from September and 4.6% above October 2017.

Specifics from key retail sectors during September include:

• Online and other non-store sales were up 13.9% unadjusted year-over-year and up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from September.

• Building materials and supplies stores sales were up 6.5% unadjusted year-over-year and up 1.0% seasonally adjusted from September.

• Clothing and accessories stores sales were up 4.7% unadjusted year-over-year and up 0.5% percent seasonally adjusted from September.

• Food and beverage stores sales were up 3.7% unadjusted year-over-year and up 0.3% percent seasonally adjusted from September.

• Health and personal care stores sales were up 3.6% unadjusted year-over-year and unchanged from September.

• General merchandise stores sales were up 3.4% unadjusted year-over-year and up 0.5% seasonally adjusted from September.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores sales were up 3.2% unadjusted year-over-year but down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from September.

• Electronics and appliance stores sales were up 2.4% unadjusted year-over-year and up 0.7% seasonally adjusted from September.

• Sporting goods stores sales were down 7% unadjusted year-over-year but up 0.5% seasonally adjusted from September.

The October numbers come as retail continues a long-term pattern of increased sales. Total retail sales have grown year-over-year every month since November 2009, and retail sales as calculated by NRF have increased year-over-year in all but one month since the beginning of 2010.