Sep 17, 2021
August retail sales rise due to consumer demand

Retail sales increased during August as consumer demand outweighed the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and other factors affecting spending, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.

“The increase in August retail sales reflects the continued strength of the American consumer and the resilience of our nation’s retailers,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO for NRF, said. “In spite of the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, concerns about the delta variant, and supply chain and workforce constraints, the retail industry continues to do what it does best – serve customers and support communities while keeping team members and associates safe and healthy. We maintain our confidence in the historic strength of consumers and fully expect a record year for retail sales and a strong holiday season for retailers.”

“Retail sales in August overcame unusual twists and turns that have affected shopping behavior both in terms of the timing and composition of sales,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for NRF, said. “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.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said 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.

August sales were up in all but two categories on a monthly basis and up across the board year-over-year, led by increases at clothing, sporting goods and electronics stores. Specifics from key sectors include:

  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 36.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 2.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 20.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 18% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 3.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 16.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 13.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 10.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were up 5.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 10.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 8.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 1.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 4.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

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