Retail Spending Grew Robustly in November

Retail spending grew at a robust 0.8 percent pace in November, extending the 2.0 percent and 0.5 percent rates seen in September and October, respectively. Overall, these data show that consumers are accelerating their purchases after slowing down somewhat in the summer months.

On a year-over-year basis, retail sales have risen 5.8 percent since November 2016, up from 4.9 percent in the previous report. With that said, sales of motor vehicles and parts—one of the largest retail segments—were off by 0.2 percent in November. Excluding automobiles, retail sales were up 1.0 percent in November, with year-over-year growth of 5.6 percent.

Beyond automobiles, the retail spending figures were mostly higher in November. The largest increases were seen in the following categories: gasoline stations (up 2.8 percent), nonstore retailers (up 2.5 percent), electronics and appliance stores (up 2.1 percent), building material and garden supply stores (up 1.2 percent) and furniture and home furnishings stores (up 1.2 percent). Gasoline stations sales were boosted by increased prices, and post-hurricane repairs were likely spurred more spending at building material and furniture stores.

In addition, it is noteworthy to discuss the dramatic changes that are occurring right now in the sector, especially with all-important holiday sales taking place in November. While there were modest gains in spending at nonstore retails, retail sales were unchanged for the month at general merchandise stores.

Over the past 12 months, the fastest growth in retail sales were in the following segments: gasoline stations (up 12.2 percent), building material and garden supply stores (up 10.7 percent), nonstore retailers (up 10.4 percent), furniture and home furnishings stores (up 8.4 percent) and motor vehicles and parts dealers (up 6.3 percent). Regarding the structural shifts conversation mentioned in the previous paragraph, department store sales have risen 1.7 percent year-over-year.

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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