Retail sales rose 7% in September

Retail industry sales for September (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 7 percent unadjusted over last year and increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from August, according to the National Retail Federation. The gains, which led third quarter sales to rise 6.4 percent over 2004, were stronger than NRF had been expecting.

This growth has occurred despite two hurricanes and high gas prices.

“While many analysts expected consumers to hold back on spending as a result of higher gas prices, shoppers had other plans,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “This is a good sign for retailers as they head into the holiday season.”

September retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from August and increased 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 36.2 percent unadjusted from last September.

Robust growth was seen in nearly every retail category last month, including furniture and home furnishings stores, which rose 1.2 percent adjusted from August and climbed an impressive 9.3 percent unadjusted over last year. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers also saw a surge, with sales rising 1.0 percent from August and 9.3 percent adjusted over last year. Additionally, strong year-over-year gains were seen at electronics and appliances stores (6.3%), food and beverage stores (6.1%), health and personal care stores (7.6%), and clothing and clothing accessories stores (5.8%).

NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.6 percent this year over 2004. Holiday sales, which are defined as retail industry sales in the full months of November and December, are expected to rise 5.0 percent to $435.3 billion.