The U.S. consumer appears to be more cautious than we would expect, with disappointing retail sales figures in May, according to the Census Bureau. Spending at retailers fell 0.3 percent in May, nearly reversing the 0.4 percent gain in April and well below consensus estimates. Americans had been more willing to open their pocketbooks, especially relative to the caution seen at the beginning of 2016. This culminated in 5.6 percent year-over-year growth in January, its fastest pace since March 2012, but the year-over-year rate has eased since then. Since May 2016, retail spending has increased 3.8 percent. To be fair, sales continue to rise modestly, and year-over-year growth has trended mostly higher, up from 2.3 percent at this point last year.
Looking at the May report, the data were mixed but mostly lower. Retail segments with the largest declines in monthly sales included electronics and appliance stores (down 2.8 percent), gasoline stations (down 2.4 percent), miscellaneous store retailers (down 1.3 percent), department stores (down 1.0 percent) and sporting goods and hobby stores (down 0.6 percent), among others. While nonstore retailers (up 0.8 percent), furniture and home furnishings stores (up 0.4 percent), clothing and accessory stores (up 0.3 percent) and food and beverage stores (up 0.1 percent) saw increases in May, each experienced reduced sales compared to April. It is worth noting the contrast between nonstore retailers and department stores in this report, as retailers continue to grapple with the structural shifts taking place between online and brick-and-mortar spending habits.
The Census Bureau said that retail sales edged slightly lower in March for the second straight month, down 0.2 percent. Softer automotive sales help to explain at least part of this weakness, with spending at motor vehicle and parts dealers down 1.2 percent for the month. Excluding autos, retail sales were unchanged in March. Despite the reduced headline number in the latest release, the data continue to reflect an American consumer that has been more willing to open to open his/her pocketbook, especially when compared to this time last year. Along those lines, retail spending has risen 5.2 percent over the past 12 months, with the year-over-year rate down from January’s 5.9 percent pace but well above the more-hesitant rate of 1.7 percent seen in March 2016. Excluding motor vehicles and parts sales, the year-over-year rate was 5.0 percent. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 0.4 percent in January, extending the 1.0 percent gain seen in December. It was the fifth consecutive monthly increase in retail spending, illustrating once again that Americans have been willing to open their pocketbooks after being more cautious with their purchases at this time last year. Indeed, over the past 12 months, retail sales have jumped 5.6 percent, a healthy rebound from a year-over-year pace of just 2.2 percent in August. Motor vehicles and parts sales have been a relative bright spot of late, but the January data were held back somewhat by a 1.4 percent decline in auto sales. To be fair, this drop was likely a response to a larger-than-normal jump in December in motor vehicle purchases, up 3.2 percent. Excluding automobiles, retail sales rose 0.8 percent in January, with year-over-year growth of 5.3 percent. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales accelerated in December, finishing 2016 on a strong note. Spending at retailers grew 0.6 percent in December, increasing for the fourth straight month. In the fourth quarter alone, retail sales rose 1.5 percent, illustrating once again that Americans continued to increase their spending at year’s end after being rather cautious in their purchases earlier in the year. Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 4.1 percent. That represents a healthy rebound from the 1.7 percent pace observed in March. With that said, healthy sales gains at motor vehicle and parts dealers (up 2.4 percent) helped to boost the December headline number. Excluding automobiles, retail spending increased by a more modest 0.2 percent, with year-over-year growth of 3.4 percent. Read More
The Census Bureau reported that retail sales pulled back in November from the strong gain in October. Americans increased their retail spending by 0.1 percent in November, off from the consensus estimate of 0.3 percent and down from the 0.6 percent gain in October. This was softer than desired, largely due to weakness in the motor vehicle and parts segment, which declined 0.5 percent for the month. Excluding automobiles, retail sales increased 0.2 percent. Even with a less-than-stellar figure in this latest release, Americans have continued to increase their spending relative to the more cautious approach to purchases earlier in the year. Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 3.8 percent. That represents a healthy rebound from the 1.7 percent pace in March. Still, it was down from 4.2 percent in October, which had been the fastest year-over-year rate in nearly two years. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose strongly, up 0.8 percent in October and extending the 1.0 percent gain seen in September. This suggests that Americans have opened their pocketbooks in a big way in the autumn months, and it serves as a stark contract to the more-cautious approach to purchases seen earlier in the year. More importantly, the accelerated pace of spending is good news for retailers – and by extension, manufacturers – headed into the all-important holiday season. The year-over-year data help to put an explanation point on this. Retail spending has risen 4.2 percent over the past 12 months, a healthy rebound from the 1.7 percent pace observed in March. It was also the fastest year-over-year rate of growth since November 2014, or nearly two years. Read More