Retail Sales Slowly Growing

By at 16 October, 2020, 10:53 am

by Raymond J. Keating-

The latest report on retail sales released on October 16 from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that monthly sales for retail and food service establishments continued to slowly climb back in September.

Of course, retail sales plunged in March and April, and then bounced back notably in May and June. Growth continued in July, August and September, but at much slower rates.

Still, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the snapback in terms of total retail and food services sales was basically complete in June, with growth then continuing. That’s a noteworthy accomplishment.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

However, this bounce back has been uneven.

For example, autos; furniture and home furnishing; building materials and gardening equipment; sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and book stores; and general merchandise stores have done fairly well.

Nonstore retailers, including e-commerce, soared higher in March, April and May, and since has generally held at a markedly higher level than what prevailed pre-pandemic.

However, those faring poorly include restaurants (i.e., food services and drinking places); grocery stores; gasoline stations; electronics and appliance stores; department stores; and clothing and clothing accessories stores – although both department and clothing stores experienced nice growth in September.

Also, food and beverage stores, after a spike up in March and decline in April have subsequently held their own.

Especially given the prevailing level of lost jobs and businesses, and considerable uncertainty regarding the election and the econmy, this overall recovery and growth in retail sales is encouraging. But more widespread and steady growth will depend ultimately on the state of entrepreneurship, private investment, and economic, income and employment growth.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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