16 Jun May Retail Sales Unexpectedly Decline Amid Inflationary Pressures
Retail sales fell 0.3 percent in May from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected sales to rise 0.2 percent. May marked a slowdown from the gain of 0.7 percent in April and the first decline in retail sales in five months.
Excluding autos, sales were up 0.5 percent, which fell short of expectations for a 0.8 percent increase.
In a statement, the National Retail Federation (NRF) attributed the slow down to consumers facing rising inflation, higher prices for gas, groceries and other essentials.
Spending at gas stations rose 4 percent in May from April and is up 43.2 percent compared with a year ago, driven by sharply higher gas prices in most U.S. States exceeding $5 a gallon.
Spending at grocery stores, where prices are also higher, rose 1.2 percent compared with April and 8.7 percent compared with a year ago.
Excluding spending at gas stations and grocery stores, spending at other retailers is down one percent compared with the previous month.
“Retail sales reflect Americans’ growing concern about inflation and its impact on the cost of everything from groceries to gas,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are doing what they can to keep prices down, but we continue our call on the Biden administration to repeal unnecessary and costly tariffs on goods from China to relieve pressure on American consumers and their family budgets.”
“There’s been little relief from inflation, and we expected some cooling off in sales in reaction to prices, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There have been swings across sectors that reflect the impact of higher prices and supply chain disturbances, and higher interest rates are expected to curb spending in the future. As inflation continues, consumers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars by saving less, tapping into savings accumulated during the pandemic and increasing their use of credit.”
The U.S. Census Bureau today said overall retail sales in May were down 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from April but up 8.1 percent year-over-year. That compared with increases of 0.7 percent month over month and 7.8 percent year over year in April.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail, showed May was unchanged seasonally adjusted from April but up 6.7 percent unadjusted year over year. In April, sales were up 0.4 percent month over month and up 5.5 percent year over year.
NRF’s numbers were up 5.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average as of May. Sales were up 7.3 percent year-over-year for this year’s first five months.
May sales were up in eight out of nine categories on a yearly basis, led by building material stores, online sales and grocery stores, but fell in nearly half the categories monthly. Specifics from key sectors include:
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 8.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Online and other non-store sales were down 1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 8.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Health and personal care stores were down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 2.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Sporting goods stores were up 0.4 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 1.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- General merchandise stores were up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 0.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 4.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.