NRF: Retail Sales Rose 2.2%

Retail industry sales for September (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 2.2 percent unadjusted over last year and 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from August, according to the National Retail Federation.

September retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Consumer spending continues to be restrained in most areas,” said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “Although sales across the board show modest increases, consumers are certainly spending more cautiously.”

Brian Bethune, U.S. Economist for Global Insight Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based financial and political consulting firm, said the government report was fairly positive overall, but “when motor vehicles and gasoline are excluded from the total, sales were up by a modest 0.2 percent, with declines reported in furniture, general merchandise, and clothing. Declines in these sales categories are consistent with the relatively weak report that we received on chain store sales on Oct. 11.”

While some categories fared well in the NRF report, unusually warm weather didn’t help clothing and clothing accessories retailers whose sales increased a meager 0.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year and decreased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from August.

Consumer demand for popular electronics such as cell phones and MP3 players helped boost electronics and appliance stores sales 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from August and 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year, NRF said. Health and personal care stores also showed strength with seasonally adjusted sales from last month increasing 1 percent and 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. 

Housing market concerns affected both building material and garden equipment and furniture and home furnishings retailers, NRF said. Sales in home furnishings stores dropped 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from August and 3.6 percent unadjusted over last year. Building materials stores sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 2.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Bethune said he expects that real consumer spending, based on the Commerce Department’s report, will expand by an upwardly revised rate of about 3.6% in the third quarter.