American shoppers drove a rise in retail sales during August, buying up increased amounts of clothing, sporting goods, and electronics despite economic challenges like a pandemic resurgence and global supply chain disruptions, according to National Retail Federation (NRF) statistics released today.
“Retail sales in August overcame unusual twists and turns that have affected shopping behavior both in terms of the timing and composition of sales,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a release. “The consumer remains rock solid despite the trifecta of macroeconomic headwinds we’ve seen this year, including tapering off of government stimulus, elevated Covid-19 infections and ongoing supply chain challenges in the form of shortages of labor and goods. Higher sales came even with a disjointed back-to-school season that also affected the timing of sales as many school districts returned to in-person learning but some delayed classes until after Labor Day. These results pave the way for sturdy consumer spending and a strong economy in the fourth quarter.”
By the numbers, NRF said that U.S. Census Bureau figures show overall retail sales in August were up 0.7% seasonally adjusted from July and up 15.1% year-over-year. That compares with a decline of 1.8% month-over-month and an increase of 15.1% year-over-year in July. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to Census data.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed August was up 2.3% seasonally adjusted from July and up 12% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with a month-over-month decrease of 1.8% and a year-over-year increase of 8.9% in July. NRF’s numbers were up 11.4% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average.
For the first eight months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 15% over the same period in 2020. That is consistent with NRF’s revised forecast that 2021 retail sales should grow between 10.5 and 13.5% over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.