Retailers report strong sales in October

Retail industry sales for October (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a strong 7.2 percent unadjusted over last year and increased 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month, according to the National Retail Federation. September sales were also revised upward, from 7 percent year-over-year growth to 7.2 percent growth.

“Retailers seem to have found a tantalizing mix of enticing merchandise and tempting promotions, which is encouraging as the holiday season gets underway,” said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “If October sales are a sign of the consumers’ spirits, retailers will be in for a jolly holiday this year.”

October 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) dipped 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted from September, largely due to sluggish automobile sales, but increased 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 26.7 percent unadjusted from last October.

Nearly every retail industry category saw strong sales last month, including building material and garden equipment and supplies stores, which saw sales rise 2.1 percent adjusted from September and a whopping 14.1 percent over last year, according to the NRF. Other home categories that experienced growth included furniture and home furnishings stores, whose sales increased 8.5 percent over last year, and electronics and appliances stores, with a 6.5 percent increase in sales over last October. Additionally, strong year-over-year gains were seen at clothing and accessories stores (7.2 percent), health and personal care stores (7.3 percent), general merchandise stores (6.9 percent), and food and beverage stores (5.2 percent).

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 percent to $435.3 billion.