Tag: Retail Spending

Consumers Remained Cautious in their Spending in April

Consumers remained cautious in their spending in April, according to the Census Bureau. Retail sales were unchanged for the month, softening from the rebound seen in March. Overall, spending has decelerated significantly over the past few months, down from a year-over-year rate of 4.7 percent in November to just 0.9 percent in April.

With that said, the longer-term view is perhaps more encouraging than the headline number might suggest. Total retail spending includes gasoline station sales, which have fallen 22.0 percent since April 2014 on lower prices. Excluding gasoline stations, retail sales grew 3.6 percent year-over-year. This suggests modest growth in the broader retail market over the past 12 months. Still, this figure has also eased recently, down from 5.8 percent year-over-year in November. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Rebounded Somewhat in March

The Census Bureau said that retail sales rebounded in March after declining in each of the previous 3 months. Retail spending rose 0.9 percent in March, with strong growth in motor vehicle and parts sales (up 2.7 percent) helping to lift the overall figure. Excluding motor vehicle and parts, retail sales were up 0.4 percent, still a modest growth rate. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Fell for the Third Straight Month in February

The Census Bureau said that retail sales slipped for the third straight month in February. Retail spending fell 0.6 percent in February, building on the 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent declines observed in December and January, respectively. Much of the recent decline has stemmed from lower gasoline prices, with gasoline station sales reflecting reduced receipt levels. To illustrate this point, Americans spent $46.3 billion at gasoline stations in February 2014, but that figure has dropped 23.0 percent since then to $35.6 billion in this report. Indeed, retail sales grew 1.7 percent year-over-year, but if you were to exclude gasoline station spending, the year-over-year rate would have been 4.7 percent. This suggests that consumer spending is better than the headline numbers might indicate. (continue reading…)

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Holiday Sales Have Gotten Off to a Strong Start

The Census Bureau provided encouraging news about retail sales growth in November. Retail spending was 0.7 percent in November, extending the revised 0.5 percent growth seen in October. This is noteworthy because it will help to erase anxieties about holiday spending seen in prior estimates. On a year-over-year basis, retail spending has increased 5.1 percent in November, a relatively healthy pace, up from 4.5 percent in October. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Bounced Back in October

The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in October, offsetting the 0.3 percent decline in September. This was slightly better than the consensus estimate of 0.2 percent growth for the month. Moreover, gasoline station sales fell 1.5 percent and have declined in four of the past five months. Of course, gasoline prices were largely behind this decrease, with the average price of regular gasoline dropping from $3.64 in late June to less than $2.91 last week. Excluding gasoline, spending would have risen 0.6 percent, suggesting better sales figures in the broader market. (continue reading…)

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Retail Sales Were Unchanged in July, Slowing from a Faster Pace in the Spring Months

The Census Bureau said that retail sales were unchanged in July. Since declining due to winter weather in December and January, retail spending had rebounded in the spring months, but it has since slowed significantly. Over the course of the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 3.7 percent, down from a 4.7 percent pace experienced in April. As such, it appears that consumers have become more cautious in their spending this summer even as we have continued to see relatively modest gains so far in 2014.

Motor vehicle sales (down 0.2 percent) declined for the second month in a row. Excluding auto sales, retail spending was up just 0.1 percent, indicating broader weaknesses. Bright spots included miscellaneous store retailers (up 0.9 percent), clothing and accessory stores (up 0.4 percent), health and personal care stores (up 0.4 percent), food and beverage stores (up 0.3 percent), food services and drinking places (up 0.2 percent) and sporting goods and hobby stores (up 0.2 percent).

Yet, these gains were largely offset by spending declines for department stores (down 0.7 percent), motor vehicle and parts dealers (down 0.2 percent), electronics and appliance stores (down 0.1 percent), furniture and home furnishings stores (down 0.1 percent) and nonstore retailers (down 0.1 percent).

On a year-over-year basis, segments with the fastest retail sales growth were health and personal care stores (up 7.3 percent), food services and drinking places (up 6.2 percent), motor vehicle and parts dealers (up 6.0 percent), nonstore retailers (up 5.9 percent) and building material and garden supply stores (up 5.1 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Reduced Auto Sales Slowed Overall Retail Spending in June

The Census Bureau said that retail sales were up 0.2 percent in June, its slowest pace since January. The consensus expectation had been for retail spending levels closer to the 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent paces seen in April and May, respectively. Despite the slower levels of activity in July, the year-over-year pace continues to grow at decent levels, up 4.3 percent over the past 12 months. This was lower than the 4.6 percent pace observed the month before, but faster than the 1.8 percent year-over-year rate observed in January.

Spending on motor vehicles and parts declined 0.3 percent in June, its first decrease in six months. Still, the larger story for autos remains a positive one, with 6.4 percent growth year-over-year. If you were to exclude autos, retail spending would have grown by 0.4 percent for the month and 3.7 percent over the past 12 months. The year-over-year pace for retail spending excluding autos was up from 3.4 percent in May and was the fastest pace in 11 months.

Therefore, the news was perhaps more positive than the top-line figure might suggest. Areas with higher retail spending in the month of July included health and personal care stores (up 0.9 percent); nonstore retailers (up 0.9 percent); clothing and accessory stores (up 0.8 percent); sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (up 0.6 percent); food and beverage stores (up 0.4 percent) and gasoline stations (up 0.3 percent). Beyond autos, building materials and garden supply stores (down 1.0 percent) and food services and drinking places (down 0.3 percent) also had decreased retail spending for the month.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Retail Spending Growth Slowed in May

The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 0.3 percent in May. On the positive side, this was the fourth consecutive monthly increase in retail spending, rebounding from winter-related softness in both December and January. Since November (pre-dating the storms), retail sales have risen 2.2 percent, and year-over-year, they have grown 4.3 percent. Yet, the pace of growth was slower than anticipated, or half of the consensus expectation of 0.6 percent. May’s increase was down from the 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent gains experienced in March and April, respectively.

Moreover, when you exclude autos and gasoline purchases from the analysis, retail spending was unchanged for the month, suggesting broader weaknesses. Motor vehicle and parts sales were up 1.4 percent in May, extending sales increases since January and continuing a strong trend. Auto sales have grown 10.4 percent over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, gasoline station sales rose 0.9 percent and 0.4 percent in April and May, respectively. This was primarily due to higher petroleum costs, with West Texas intermediate crude costs up from $99.69 per barrel on April 1 to $103.40 a barrel on May 30.

Data from other sectors were mostly mixed. Americans spent more in May at miscellaneous store retailers (up 1.8 percent), building materials and garden supplies stores (up 1.1 percent), nonstore retailers (up 0.6 percent), and furniture and home furnishings stores(up 0.5 percent). In contrast, these increases were offset by declines for clothing and accessories (down 0.6 percent), general merchandise (down 0.6 percent), electronics and appliances (down 0.3 percent), food services and drinking places (down 0.2 percent), food and beverages (down 0.1 percent), and health and personal care (down 0.1 percent) stores.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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Retail Spending Began to Rebound in February

The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 0.3 percent in February. This was a partial rebound from the weather-induced declines of 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent in December and January, respectively. Retail sales peaked at an all-time high of $430.1 billion in November, but have fallen 0.7 percent since then. As a result, the year-over-year pace of retail spending has also decelerated in that time period, down from 4.0 percent in November to 1.5 percent in February.

The largest monthly gains in retail sales occurred in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (up 2.5 percent); nonstore retailers (up 1.2 percent); and health and personal care stores (up 1.2 percent) businesses. In the first two, these were bounce-backs from declines the month before.

The bigger story was the beginning of possible “green shoots” on the sales front in February for some retailers. For instance, motor vehicle sales were hard hit by poor weather conditions in both December and January (down 2.1 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively). In February, auto sales rose a very modest 0.3 percent, ending the downward streak. Similar shifts were seen for department stores (up 0.7 percent), clothing and accessories (up 0.4 percent), furniture and home furnishings (up 0.4 percent), and food service and drinking places (up 0.3 percent). This indicates that people have started to come back into these establishments – a positive development even if the increases have not fully offset the prior decreases.

Areas with continued weaknesses included miscellaneous store retailers (down 0.9 percent), general merchandise stores (down 0.3 percent), electronics and appliances (down 0.2 percent), and food and beverage stores (down 0.2 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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Retail Spending Fell for the Second Straight Month in January

The Census Bureau reported that retail sales fell 0.4 percent in January, extending the 0.1 percent decline observed in December. A significant drop in auto sales over the past two months was a major factor, with spending on motor vehicles and parts down 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent in December and January, respectively. Indeed, if you were to exclude autos from the analysis, retail spending would have been unchanged in January.

As with so many other indicators of late, weather was likely a contributing factor. If people are not able to get to the stores to make purchases, the overall spending numbers are bound to reflect that. As a result, we have seen the year-over-year retail sales numbers decelerate, down from 4.0 percent in November to 3.5 percent in December to 2.6 percent in January.

The sector-by-sector breakdown for January was largely mixed, as you might expect given that it was flat for the broader (non-auto) market. There were increases in spending for building materials (up 1.4 percent), gasoline stations (up 1.1 percent), electronics and appliances (up 0.4 percent), and food and beverages (up 0.2 percent). But, these were essentially offset by declines for department stores (down 1.5 percent), sporting goods and hobbies (down 1.4 percent), clothing and accessories (down 0.9 percent), furniture and home furnishings (down 0.6 percent), health and personal care (down 0.6 percent), nonstore retailers (down 0.6 percent), and food services and drinking places (down 0.6 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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