May Retail Sales Up Nearly 5 Percent from Last Year

Improved consumer confidence and spending helped drive retail sales in May, reports the National Retail Federation (NRF). May retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from April and increased a strong 4.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“The American consumer continues to drive the U.S. economy,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay says. “In spite of fluctuating gas prices, severe weather in much of the country and fiscal policy uncertainty, consumers continue to demonstrate an inherent resiliency and flexibility. We should never underestimate the role and strength of the American shopper or the retailers that serve them.”

May retail sales, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed that total retail and food services sales, which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.3 percent adjusted year-over-year.

“Stronger employment data and increasing home and equity prices lifted confidence and spending this spring,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added. “The economy is improving, albeit slowly, but we still have a long way to go. Stagnant salaries continue to constrain further economic acceleration. While sequester and tax increases dampened sales growth in the first quarter, it appears that the economy absorbed most of the blow.”

Other findings from the May retail sales report include:

•    Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales increased 0.9 percent seasonally-adjusted and increased 9.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales decreased 0.2 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 4.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 0.8 seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 0.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 2.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.2 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Non-store retailers’ sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 11.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

•    Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 1.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.