“The pullback in September compared with August is possibly a reaction to increased fears over U.S.-China tensions,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “While uncertainty around trade policy and other issues has dampened consumer sentiment recently, consumers still have a lot going for them as evidenced by longer-term trends and factors like the tight labor market. September is a tricky month to measure because of seasonal factors like the end of summer and back-to-school spending, and this year’s early Labor Day may have moved up some spending into the last days of August.”
As of September, the three-month moving average was up 4.9% over the same period a year ago, compared with 4.1% in August. September’s results build on gains of 0.5% month-over-month and 4.7% year-over-year in August.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said that overall September sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from August but up 4.1% unadjusted year-over-year. Specifics from key retail sectors during September include:
- Online and other non-store sales were up 15.6% year-over-year but down 0.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Health and personal care stores were up 4.2% year-over-year and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.6% year-over-year but down 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 2.5% year-over-year but down 1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.1% year-over-year and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Sporting goods stores were unchanged year-over-year but down 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- General merchandise stores were down 0.2 percent year-over-year and down 0.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 0.7% year-over-year but up 1.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.