Retail sales for specialty stores, online retailers and even department stores ticked up in October compared to a year ago, buoying expectations for a booming holiday season.
Seasonally adjusted sales for apparel and accessories retailers grew 0.6 percent to $21.86 in October compared to July and 1.7 percent over last year, when sales came in at $21.49 billion, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Department store sales rose as well by a slight 0.2 percent to $12.66 billion for October, and are up 0.7 percent compared to last year. But for the year so far, sales are still down 2.8 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Meanwhile non-store retailers, which include online and mail order companies, had a mixed month. While October sales came in at $52.13 billion, a 22.6 percent increase over last year, they actually fell 0.3 percent from September. Online sales also fell in August and have varied month to month this year after posting reliable growth for the last several years.
But the overall picture for retail sales was unexpectedly rosy despite a slight increase in consumer prices of 0.1 percent during October, adding to a 2 percent increase in prices for the year so far, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Whatever the reason, retail and consumer groups are taking the spending as a good sign for the holiday shopping season and the months ahead.
“There was broad strength across most sectors and households clearly have the wherewithal to spend going into the holiday season,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said.
Kathleen Navin, an economist with IHS Markit, said she still expects consumer spending to go up 2.4 percent during the third fiscal quarter, which includes holiday, but the firm raised its growth domestic product projections to 3.4 percent for the quarter, given the “unexpected strength” in retail sales.
“We expect strong fundamentals for consumer spending — continued job gains, firming real wage growth and the recent strength in household net worth — to support solid gains in retail sales over the coming months,” Navin added.
Some of the biggest U.S. retailers, including Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target, launched Black Friday discounts at the very beginning of November in an attempt to lure early holiday shoppers and drive more sustained sales over the period and sales projections for the all-important season have been widely positive.
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