The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, slowing from the 0.7 percent growth rate seen in July. It was the fourth increase in the past six months (with the other two being unchanged), as consumer spending has rebounded somewhat from softness earlier in the year. The year-over-year pace has improved from a disappointing 1.3 percent pace in April to 2.2 percent in August; although, that was down from 2.6 percent in the prior report. Nonetheless, the public remains cautious in their willingness to open their pocketbooks. As an illustration of that point, retail sales growth was 4.9 percent year-over-year twelve months ago, or almost double the current pace. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 0.6 percent in July, bouncing back from being unchanged in June. The prior month’s softness had been unexpected, making the rebound in July more welcome. The year-over-year pace improved from a disappointing 1.3 percent pace in April to 2.4 percent in July. Needless to say, even that modest rate of consumer spending suggests that the public remains somewhat cautious in their willingness to open their pocketbooks. As an illustration of that point, retail sales growth was 4.7 percent year-over-year in November, or almost double the current pace. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales fell by 0.3 percent in June, pulling back from the 1.0 percent gain seen in May. The decline was unexpected, with a consensus anticipation of a slight increase. It was the first decrease in retail spending since February, and it suggests that the public continues to remain somewhat cautious in their willingness to open their pocketbooks. The year-over-year pace was a disappointing 1.4 percent, down from 2.3 percent in May and well below the 4.7 percent rate observed in November. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 1.2 percent in May, bouncing back from a softer April, where spending rose just 0.2 percent. On a year-over-year basis, consumers spent 2.7 percent more today than 12 months ago, a modest gain that represents a notable improvement from the 1.5 percent pace in the prior report. Still, these data continue to reflect the softer economic environment seen so far in 2015, with the year-over-year pace down from 4.7 percent in November.
With that said, these data have been skewed by changes in gasoline prices over the past year. Lower prices have resulted in a drop in sales, which are expressed in nominal terms, of 18.6 percent since May 2014. Retail spending excluding gasoline station sales was up 5.2 percent year-over-year in May, up from 4.3 percent in April. This suggests a stronger pace of overall consumer spending than the headline figure might indicate. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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.