Retail Spending up Strongly in September Buoyed by Robust Auto and Building Supply Sales

Retail spending rebounded strongly, up 1.6 percent in September after edging down by 0.1 percent in August. The decline in August and the corresponding uptick in September were both influenced by recent hurricanes, and in the latest figures, this can be seen in robust spending growth at motor vehicle and parts dealers (up 3.6 percent) and building material and garden supply (up 2.1 percent) stores as Americans in the affected areas replaced and repaired their damaged homes and automobiles in mass. In addition, gasoline prices have moved higher, pushing retail sales at gasoline stations up 5.8 percent in September. Illustrating this point, the Energy Information Administration reports that the average price of regular gasoline rose from $2.399 per gallon on the week of August 28 to $2.583 on September 25.

In general, consumer spending remains a bright spot in the economy, with Americans more willing to open their pocketbooks this year than last, especially than in the beginning months of 2016. Over the past 12 months, spending has risen by 4.4 percent, up from 3.5 percent in the prior release. This has drifted higher over the past three months, up from 3.0 percent in June. Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales increased 4.6 percent year-over-year in September, up from 2.4 percent in June and 4.1 percent in August.

Looking at other businesses in the September report, the data were mixed. Segments with higher spending for the month included food and beverage stores (up 0.8 percent), food services and drinking places (up 0.8 percent), nonstore retailers (up 0.5 percent) and clothing and accessory stores (up 0.4 percent). In contrast, there was weaker activity for miscellaneous store retailers (down 0.6 percent), department stores (down 0.4 percent), furniture and home furnishings stores (down 0.4 percent), health and personal care stores (down 0.4 percent) and sporting goods and hobby stores (down 0.2 percent).

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Director of the Center for Manufacturing Research for The Manufacturing Institute, where he serves as the NAM’s economic forecaster and spokesperson on economic issues. He frequently comments on current economic conditions for manufacturers through professional presentations and media interviews. He has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business and Fox News, among other news outlets.
Chad Moutray

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